USA vs. Honduras Preview: What Will It Take

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Assuming they get to the stadium….

Thank you, thank you.

All political conflicts aside, the Americans will face a different looking Honduras than the one they encountered in Chicago in June. A few weeks ago, TSG gave you a primer piece with a link to the replay of the match on the 360. If you had a moment to take in that game, you most probably came away from the affair with excitement about upcoming matches and more confidence than ever in our offensive game.

Will a Captain Carlos diving header be the difference again?

Will a Captain Carlos diving header be the difference again?

You may say now that the U.S. play went sideways through the summer, largely content to sit back and play defense and only manage offensive efforts as necessary or opportune.

Conversely, Honduras will come in with the entire nation looking for a respite from the ongoing political strife harrowing their nation. They’ll also come in with a confident mindset as well; the Honduran team is 8-0 in WCQs at home. The situation will probably be most similar to the  August 12th U.S. visit to Mexico, with the parallels being the national team needing a win, with a collective nation on edge and raucous and charged home crowd ready to contribute.

Thankfully, Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano itself will provide a barrier to those emotionally charged fans. Olimpico has a track around the playing field, providing a decent-enough barrier from the fans suffocating their foes. Whereas the Azteca was a pit, Olimpica is an island.

Again take a look back our primer piece for our past observations.

As usual we’ll follow the TSG preview format:

TSG “What We’re Looking For”

11 at the Whistle


TSG ” What We’re Looking For”

Overview: The U.S. will need to counter a Honduran team that loses some stability with quarterback Amado Guevara and holding middie Danilo Turcios off the pitch. It will be interesting to see what Honduran head coach Reinaldo Ruedo does in the midst of the loss of two key midfielders.

One option is to bring in Carlos Costly and play a modified 3-2-3-2 with Inter Milan loanee David Suazo back in the mix and playing the point forward role. The U.S. were lucky enough to miss Suazo, who already has 4 goals for Benfica, back in June. Or Ruedo might confine Costly to the bench as a late game sub–as he did in Mexico–and go with Wigan midfielder Hendry Thomas and Torino’s Julio Leon as replcements in the center of the pitch.

With either line-up count on seeing the Hondurans much more aggressive than they were June 6th in Chicago. In that game, Honduras tried to march up the middle of the field with 2 and 3 linking passes to a runner coming around the corner. Didn’t work.

With Guevara and Turcious in street clothes, look for Wilson Palacios to play an even bigger and more important role centrally and look for the Hondurans to shoot up the pitch a little faster and attack from wider angles. It’s in their best intest to get the ball quickly to Pavon and Suazo and maybe even Costly if he’s in there early and let them go to work. If they have success the U.S. might go turtle shell on defense and again sit until a counter attack opportunity opens.

Here’s our things we’re looking for from the U.S. squad in San Pedro Sula:

• With Clint in the infirmary, who gets the left, or right, middie slot?

It’s amazing how much more you miss Clint when he’s out of the line-up. Certainly TSG as well many other publications have questioned his

Is it Torres's turn?

Is it Torres's turn to shine?

desire and play over the last few qualifiers. However, in his absence, I’m left with questions like, “Is Stu ready?” or “Is Benny the type of winger we need in this game?” and “Is this really the place you want to give Torres another shot?”

I’m even asking, “Well, who is the super sub then?”

I didn’t consider however, “do we change our formation?” We know we’re not going there less than one week away.

This is a tough one and I think that Bob Bradley will go with either Benny or Paco, but I think Stu Holden is the right choice. The US attacked voraciously up the flanks in the previous match and Honduras largely let the play come to them on the sides, relying on their two holding middies to provide support to their outside defenders. Holden fits the Dempsey role (take a look at the replay of the game) perfectly from his ability to either maintain possession or push the pace up the right flank.

The right decision is Stu Holden given Bradley’s strategy, Honduras’s penchant for using a 3-2-3-2 line-up and Holden’s ability to get back on defense. What does Bob Bradley do? (Let me think about it for the a little longer in this preview.)

Update: Ok, I thought about it, here’s my Monday conclusion. Bob picks Stu. I know a few paragraphs ago I wasn’t thinking that…but Bob’s been in Stu’s corner all summer and Stu has performed for him. He’s continued to give him more and more responsibility on the USMNT and Stu has delivered and then some. Benny is not the choice, because as we are wont to say all too often, Bob Bradley (and I) favor the least disruption possible when making a selection. If you play Benny, then who’s your central midfield reliever? Stu? Not sure about that one.

Or will Bob make way for the Iceman?

Or will Bob make way for the Iceman?

Jose Francisco Torres is probably you’re only other choice; and he did relieve against El Slavador on the road earlier in the year. Paco is solid, but he’s closer to a linking midfielder rather than an on-the-fly winger. We need the winger in this one. It’s between Paco and Stu. We say Stu by a hair.

• Does Ricardo Clark play as far up the pitch as he did against T&T?

TSG reader “Kevin” pointed out the Ricardo Clark makes the T&T shot 7 out of 8 times in our follow-up piece on the T&T game.

I wasn’t a believer….so I went and watched some Dynamo games and Kevin, you have my apology. Given the opportunity to run onto a ball or shoot in an open space or with an open look, Clark actually has a solid shot. So my apologies there.

That being said, I still don’t like Clark all the way up the pitch and I’m curious to see what transpires here in Honduras. Clark has been at his best for the U.S. at tracking down counter attacks, providing defense cover in the middle, and even making some overlapping runs from the middle (not into the middle). Clark has been nearly a nightmare though in managing linking and possession up the middle. Frankly anyone can see that.

We’d like to see BB drop him back down into his customary pseudo-holding role and if he needs a man up the pitch it’s Mike Bradley, not Rico. Of course, I always favor a Benny pairing with a defensive mid in the middle of the pitch and in this game, I feel no different.

• What is the U.S. wingfull strategy in this one? Watch how this one plays out.

'Dolo: Likely back in the mix at RB

'Dolo: Likely back in the mix at RB

US outside fullbacks, and rightfully so, are maligned for their lack of involvement in attack. Going into this qualifier, I would hesitate to give them a full license to get up the pitch, especially in the opening minutes on the road. Honduras will come with a more offensive game plan and whereas Spector and Bornstein contributed to the attack in Chicago, I think they need to be cautious here to start this one out and let the game come to them, feeling out the Honduran strike team.

I would favor a message like Bob Bradley’s at the halftime of the El Salvador game to “starting finding the ‘fulls up the pitch.” I think if the U.S. gets the right tempo then most certainly get the “d” guys involved, but first let’s see them bend-and-no-break against the initial emotional offensive volleys from Honduras.

Oh, and one more thing, now you’ve got a new outside middie who needs to communicate and provide cover of the top of one of these guys. Will be very interesting.

• Let’s see what you got Charlie Davies.

Charlie Davies has looked like a a wind-up mouse the past two games, sporadically darting at and through defenders then counter attacking heavily…but only in small isolated spurts, until his engine unwinds. Sure, Davies has suffered from poor service–I can’t forget the opening 20 or so minutes against T&T where Charlie’s attitude was “go-go-go” but he wasn’t on the same page with the midfielders who either overlapped incorrectly or weren’t ready for the dump pass.

Charlie’s efforts have to be more consistent and, yes, his teammates need to get him the ball. There is arguably no better player on the U.S. who can break down the defense when given license 1-on-1 from a standstill. (Donovan for all his skill is probably even with Charlie on this, but the more masterful of the two on slicing runs and creating opportunities on the counter attack.)

If Davies can continue to pressure the Honduran defense in 1-on-1 situations off the corner of the box, it will–much like a boxer begins to drop his arm after persistent rib shots–force the Honduran midfielders into deeper cover than they want and conversely help out the US defense.

Let’s see it for a full 90 Davies this time.

11 at the Whistle

G: Tim Howard

D: Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein

M: Stu Holden, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Landon Donovan

S: Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies


  • Brian Ching for Jozy Altidore

Jozy’s been on the bench as we’ve commented earlier this week and Ching is a veteran of these situations. Bob Bradley might prefer Ching as someone who can receive the over-the-top balls from the defense and then lay them off to Davies or Donovan. That being said Bradley almost certainly goes with Altidore here once his fitness is reviewed in Miami.

Probability: 20%

  • Benny, Paco, Robbie Rogers or Bobby Convey for the Iceman

Of course, we’re kidding and certainly joking on Bob Convey. Call it a coin flip between Stu and Paco, with Bob Bradley going with Paco if he favors the need for a leftie and some more Central American experience.

Probability: 50%

  • Spector maintains the nod at RB over Cherundolo

Highly possible. Spector looked solid to very good against La H in Chicago. One problem, he’s been in the freezer for West Ham for the past few weeks. ‘Dolo is probably your option here on fitness alone.

Probability: 35%

That’s it, the Dempsey situation created and creates a lot of pondering on the line-up. Let’s see what happens.

On to the comments!

*Oh, one more note as my brother mentioned to me–if you get Stu on the pitch, how about the Dynamo star taking some of our set pieces. Seems logical.

21 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Matthew N on 2009/10/05 at 6:30 PM

    For a moment I thought that Bobby Convey comment wasn’t a joke. You put that in there just for me didn’t you? I think you’re spot on about Holden. I think Bradley picks him and I know he will do great. Stuart is ready for the big time.


  2. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/05 at 6:48 PM

    Take a moment and tell me the last time Stu Holden erred after Bradley introduced him in a match. Through the last three matches at least, I could maybe one error in possession against Mex at the Azteca.

    Holden was active and had three tremendous crosses over that span, one in each game (unfortunately all were narrowly missed).


  3. Have we found out where this game will be on television if at all?


  4. Posted by Antonio H. on 2009/10/05 at 8:59 PM

    note: Mexico is not in Central America


  5. […] USA vs. Honduras Official TSG Preview: What Will It Take – (10/06) […]


  6. Though Spector has been riding the pine, does Bornstein merit the LB spot? I think Spector has a better presence in tough situations, let’s face it Chivas jayvee matches against local youth teams doesn’t quite prepare you for national team duty. While he didn’t hurt his cause against T&T he didn’t really “seal” the job as his own either, in my opinion.

    As for the Stewie vs. Paco debate, do you think they were talking shit to each other in the CCL last week, there was a free kick at the end of the game where these two were seen jawing at each other….

    I think Holden is the clear choice, but I have to wonder what would happen with Torres on the left, Holden on the right, Benny and Clark/Bradley manning the middle with Lanny (interchanging with Torres or Holden to stir things up) and Chuck D up top? The amount of speed and possession this line up would give us would be incredible. Though, there wouldn’t be much muscle unless Gooch took a page out of the AC Milan playbook and began creeping up into the “in the hole” striker role.


  7. No Dempsey. That means I need a new drinking game. His absence is a further complication since Honduras will be able to focus their defensive attention a lot more closely on Donovan than they otherwise could if Dempsey were on the pitch. It’s no coincidence that Donovan’s best run of play in a while came as Dempsey emerged as his co-star.

    But let’s not misunderestimate Bob Bradley. I agree with the Holden assessment and I think that’s what we will see. A draw means nothing so hopefully we’ll see Feilhaber’s inclusion at the expense of either Bradley or Clark. (I’m on tenterhooks waiting for the outcome of that decision!) I agree we should see Cherundolo over Spector as one of the back four being less than match-fit is enough.

    I’m hoping our strikers’ much practiced FIFA 10 skillz can translate on the pitch and they don’t get distracted during goalscoring opportunities with a mysterious twitching in the thumbs and inexplicably kick the ball out for throw-in when alone in the 6-yard box by accidentally hitting the square button like I always do.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/06 at 1:01 PM

      @i like….

      “Let’s not misunderstimate Bob Bradley.” Classic.

      Benny is really the right man….for the central midfield here. Did you see how La H tag-teamed on d in the central midfield in Game 1. Basically you had Pablo saying (very effectively I might add), “Here, you take it Lando….here you go Deuce…get this thing away from me.”

      I shutter to think about Rico with his first touch and Bradley with his penchant to try and “prove himself” in these games what might happen. Whereas Benny as we know will be perfectly content to make the right pass in the right situation. That’s his biggest asset and the place where he’s most improved. Benny further opens stuff up because you KNOW that he can make the Dan Marino-like post play straight down the middle.

      Your commentary above on Lando-Demps relationship is spot on. That’s why in my mind you need Davies and hopefully Holden to really stretch the Honduran defense. Paco while able to go forward aggressively, really like to (from what I’ve seen) link up little 1-2 and 1-2-3 give and goes on the corner. His skillset would have been more effective in my mind in the Mex game or even T&T to some extent.

      Like I said above, in my mind it’s either Torres or Stu. I think you put Lando on the left over Bornstein with Davies ahead of them. That’s a good combo and you put Iceman on the right over either Dolo or Spector playing off the forward midfielder or Bradley I would assume in this came with Altidore on the post-up.

      But then again, I also thought that the USMNT would come out flying against T&T so give your fair amount of discounts to my testimony.


      • Let’s just go with “tuesday” for short. As for the Feilhaber in the central midfield role – he’s doing his job best when he’s going under the radar a little bit and not doing anything too spectacular. You don’t take risks with the ball in areas it’s dangerous to lose it, like the center of midfield, and you don’t go to ground in the penalty area. Just ask Souleymane Diawara who made a perfect tackle on C. Ronaldo on the last Champion’s League match day and was rewarded with a penalty and getting sent off because Ronny fell over a little bit.


  8. Posted by tres hermanos on 2009/10/06 at 12:46 PM

    Hey does anyone know if three brothers have ever started on the same national team before? Looks like ALL THREE Palacio brothers will be on the field for the Bicolor on Saturday: Wison, Jerry y Johnny. That’s quite a soccer family.

    From what I’ve read it’s cuz Johnny got called in after one of the big Euro based Honduran stars injured his knee.

    What’d’ya make of that?


  9. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/06 at 12:53 PM

    I’m a Bornstein fan and if you watch him in the June 6th game he is arguably better going forward than Spector. Spector is clearly and obviously better on the crosses. I just think that ability wise JB has the tools to be a dynamic player — though he still needs to show them all at one time and consistently at that.

    I’ve always been suspect of Spector’s speed and angles for that matter. He’s all or nothing sometimes.

    Also, I think Bob Bradley as I mentioned once before in a post goes Fight Club Ed Norton’s Jack on the RB situation as Norton did with his IKEA couch — basically, “I’ve got the rightback (couch) covered. I’ll never need another RB (couch).”

    Bradley, I believe says,”Spector/Dolo are my RBs.”
    Bornstein and Mystery Player X are my LBs heading into RSA (maybe Boca gets considered outside, but I really doubt it with his speed).

    By the way you think Paco or Edgar are “Ross-afied” in Mexico for joining the Yanks?

    Would love a clip of that Iceman – Paco faceoff.


    • I would agree that JB has the tools (see his run near the end of the T&T match) but he hasn’t put them all together for 90 minutes yet. I would also agree that Spector is inconsistent as well. My main point is that Spector has displayed more composure when on the ball than JB has at this point. Given that he’s not fit makes the decision a tougher one. At this point in time, I don’t think JB is our left back, but that’s not to say he couldn’t make the position his own with some more experience and some more individual coaching. Depending on how he plays Saturday I could change my tune (not that i’ll be able to see the match to evaluate the players).

      As for the Paco and Iceman clip, I couldn’t find it on the interwebs. It wasn’t WWE style stare down but it was definitely some gamesmanship by Paco, I wish we could’ve heard their conversation.


  10. […] • At the end of this Reuters piece, does Charlie Davies hint at a Stu Holden starting role on Saturday? Most data is pointing in that direction right now. Our official preview here. […]


  11. […] may have been enough with Spector spending most of the past 30 days riding the pine. TSG thinks Stevie will get the start at RB on […]


  12. […] Hashed and re-hashed that is where we are on USMNT in San Pedro Sula. Now we just need your opinion. So have it and add your commentary below. […]


  13. […] TSG’s in-depth preview can be found here. […]


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