The pressure on the U.S. men’s national team has been growing with every match it doesn’t win in World Cup qualifying. It’ll be the same story on Wednesday against Honduras, where the Americans have not won in their past two qualifying visits (loss and draw) dating back to 2013.
The growing sense of alarm among U.S. fans has a lot to do with the 2018 World Cup qualifying debacle, which ultimately saw the U.S. team miss its first World Cup since 1986. A slow start on that occasion doomed the Americans. This time the USA has two draws from its opening two matches (draws vs. El Salvador and Canada), which is better than the two losses with which the USA opened qualifying four years ago. And it’s not all gloom and doom: The USMNT is tied on two points with three other teams and only Mexico (6 points) and Panama (4 points) have more points.
“If I’m a fan, I’m not happy with two points after two games. I’m not. And I can understand frustration. That’s completely normal,” USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said in the pregame news conference. “But you have to look at the big picture. This is a marathon and not a sprint.”
In addition to what has often been an irregular playing surface and a hostile crowd, Honduras is likely to present the USA with the same tactical challenges that Canada did in Sunday’s 1-1 draw: an organized block of 8-9 players that will be difficult to penetrate. And those Honduran players will be rested enough to challenge for every ball after the Catrachos made nine lineup changes in its Sunday match against El Salvador. “We know it’s a difficult defense to break down,” Berhalter said.
Honduras also is on two points after two matches, but their two matches both came on the road (in Canada and El Salvador). Their game is predicated on being tough to play against and they’ll pick their moments to spring on the counter. Against a U.S. team missing a number of players to injury and suspension, the Hondurans will be sensing that circumstances set up perfectly for a famous home win that would give their World Cup qualifying bid a serious boost.
How to watch Honduras vs. USA
- Date: Wednesday, Sept. 8
- Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
- Spanish-language TV: Telemundo, Universo
- Stream: fuboTV, Paramount+
The match will be broadcast on Telemundo and Universo and both those channels can be streamed on fuboTV (free 7-day trial). Paramount+ also will carry the match.
The event will be held at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula, which will be sold out at 50 percent capacity (18,000 fans).
USA vs. Honduras: projected lineups
The USMNT has a list of players who will miss the match, including a handful of stars such as Gio Reyna (hamstring), Sergino Dest (ankle) and Weston McKennie (team violation). It means that Christian Pulisic will have an even bigger bullseye on his back than usual. It’s a chance for the likes of Brenden Aaronson, who has already been one of the USA’s top performers, or Konrad de la Fuente to step up.
Berhalter can potentially go to a three-man backline (3-4-3) formation with James Sands in the middle of the other two center backs, but that might not be ideal for a central midfield that will be under intense pressure. While some players seem fairly locked in to their starting spots, fresh legs should be expected in others: De la Fuente at left wing? George Bello at left back? Walker Zimmerman or Mark McKenzie at center back?
USMNT projected lineup (4-3-3, left to right): 1-Matt Turner-GK — 21-George Bello, 12-Miles Robinson, 3-Walker Zimmerman, 22-DeAndre Yedlin — 23-Kellyn Acosta, 4-Tyler Adams, 17-Sebastian Lletget — 20-Konrad de la Fuente, 9-Josh Sargent, 10-Christian Pulisic
USMNT projected subs (12): 18-Ethan Horvath-GK, 8-Sean Johnson-GK, 5-Antonee Robinson, 16-James Sands, 13-Tim Ream, 15-Mark McKenzie, 6-John Brooks, 2-Jackson Yueill, 7-Cristian Roldan, 11-Brenden Aaronson, 14-Ricardo Pepi, 19-Jordan Pefok
Honduras head coach Fabian Coito made nine changes to his starting lineup from the first match against Canada to the second against El Salvador, presumably looking to rest players for the home game against the USA. One major absence is playmaker Alex Lopez, who scored the Catrachos’ only goal so far on a penalty kick against Canada. He injured himself on that penalty and has already rejoined his club team to begin his recovery.
Honduras projected XI (4-4-2, left to right): 22-Luis Lopez — 23-Diego Rodriguez, 3-Maynor Figueroa, 4-Marcelo Pereira, 17-Andy Najar — 10-Rigoberto Rivas, 15-Kervin Arriaga, 20-Deybi Flores, 8-Edwin Rodriguez — 13-Brayan Moya, 12-Romell Quioto
Honduras projected subs (12): 1-Edrick Menjivar-GK, 18-Marlon Licona-GK, 2-Felix Crisanto, 5-Danilo Acosta, 16-Johnny Leveron, 19-Jose Garcia, 6-Bryan Acosta, 7-Carlos Pineda, 14-Boniek Garcia, 21-Jonathan Toro, 9-Antony “Choco” Lozano, 11-Eddie Hernandez
USA vs. Honduras: Odds & prediction
Going into the match, the conventional thinking is that there is no way the U.S. men’s national team can pull off a win in Honduras without so many of its important players. The vibe is that the team is probably demoralized and emotionally drained by its first two matches, the injuries and the McKennie saga. But the oddsmakers say differently and they’re probably right.
As long as Christian Pulisic is on the field, this U.S. team has the weapons to give Honduras a tough time. He’s capable of the one or two moments of magic that can decide a CONCACAF qualifier. And with only 18,000 fans (50 percent capacity), the atmosphere at the Metropolitano won’t be as hostile as it is known to be. So the fact that the USA is still the favorite to win (-115) is no surprise. But the truth is that this game can go in any direction.
So the best way to play it might be for a risk-averse start by both teams (they were deadlocked at 0-0 for 88 minutes in an equally high-stakes Nations League semifinal in June). A first-half draw (-110) or a goal-less first half (+145 Under 0.5 total goals) are somewhat risky bets with that approach in mind. But neither side has its first-choice attack and they also haven’t been lighting it up on the attacking end in September. Plus, the USA’s Matt Turner is an elite shot-stopper and he’s good for one or two goal-saving stops in every match. Another slightly safer angle could be banking on the second half being the higher-scoring of the two halves (+110) when players are fatigued and the teams are taking a few more chances.
Prediction: Honduras 0, USA 1
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
- Honduras to win: +340
- Draw: +215
- USA to win: -115
- Under 2.5 total goals: -165
- Highest scoring half – 2nd half: +110
- 1st Half draw: -110
- 1st Half result 0-0: +145
- Under 0.5 total goals – 1st half: +145