Gold Cup Preview: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Honduras

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by DENY GALLAGHER
USMNT writer

The U.S. Men’s National Team enters the Gold Cup fray this Tuesday night against a tough opponent: Honduras.

While the Americans enter the tournament on a winning foot, they are hardly brimming with confidence. A 4-0 thrashing of Guatemala was marred by choppy and inconsistent play. Honduras, meanwhile, enter the tournament with a new, defensive look — one that held Mexico scoreless in the lead up to the tournament.

The U.S. are favorites to win their group, and a victory against Honduras will go a long way to securing their advancement.

KNOW YOUR ENEMY: HONDURAS

In the last cycle, Honduras had a terrific World Cup qualifying campaign, finishing third behind the United States and Costa Rica. However, the Central American side’s stay in Brazil was short lived, as they lost all three of their group fixtures.

After the World Cup, manager Luis Fernando Suarez resigned, leading to a few months of poor results. The run was capped off with a disappointing fifth place finish at the 2014 Copa Centroamerica.

To start 2015, Honduras dropped their first three contests including the first leg of a Gold Cup qualifier at French Guiana. In their last four games, Los Catrachos are 2-1-1 with the lone blemish coming in a hard fought 1-0 loss on the road in Brazil on June 10th.

Manager Jorge Luis Pinto has called in a formidable side for North America’s most important tournament. The midfield will be controlled Andy Najar, who plies his trade at Anderlecht in Belgium. In addition, Honduras will look for leadership from Hull City defender Maynor Figueroa and the Houston Dynamo’s Óscar Boniek García. These two players combined have earned a total of 220 combined caps for their country.

The biggest question mark for Honduras will be at the forward position. Pinto has called four strikers into the team, but only 22-year-old Anthony Lozano has more than 10 caps. In addition, the average of age of their forwards is just 23-years-old. With only six goals in a combined 27 matches, the blue and white will need one of their four young strikers to step up if they want to make a Gold Cup run.

THE U.S. OUTLOOK

As for the Americans, it is imperative that the side establishes possession in the midfield early on. On countless occasions, Honduras has forced the U.S. to grind out ugly results by not giving them any room to work with.  The difference in this tournament, and in particular this game, will be the wide midfielders. For the first time since the 2007 Gold Cup, the Americans have attack that is reliant on pace down the flanks. I would expect Gyasi Zardes and DeAndre Yedlin to get the nod at left and right midfield respectively. Honduras will more than likely keep about eight men behind the ball, making combination play the key to unlocking that back line.

The United States will see Honduras in the first game of the tournament, which will come as a nice change of pace for Los Catrachos considering that the U.S. has eliminated them from the past five Gold Cups.

PROJECTED U.S. STARTING XI:

The United States will meet Honduras on July 7th at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.