USA vs. Honduras
Tuesday, June 18; 6 pm PT; Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah
2014 World Cup Qualifying match
The US Men’s National Team is in good form. At 3-1-1, they lead the Hexagonal Round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and after a 2-0 victory over Panama last week at CenturyLink Field are riding a wave of momentum into Tuesday night’s match at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, against Honduras.
The team is looking to carry the momentum that has seen them leap from the lower half of the qualifying round with a loss to Honduras, a narrow victory over Costa Rica and a draw in Mexico. While the results of the latter two matches left reason for optimism, the play wasn’t up to the standard they have set for themselves. In getting victories over Jamaica on the road and Panama at home, though, the US has shifted gears and is now in the driver’s seat for their World Cup fate.
“Right now, as a team, we’ve got to feel good about the progress we’re making,” Sounders FC forward Eddie Johnson said at training at Rio Tinto on Monday. “In reality, we had a chance in Seattle to put ourselves one step closer to qualifying and we just want to feed off that momentum that we have going right now.”
Keeping the winning environment is important on many levels.
A victory would put acres of space between them and the rest of the teams in the Hex and with just four games remaining after Tuesday, they would have a significant cushion over the rest of the field.
“It’s huge. The team played well in the previous two games and you need now to add those three points,” head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “It’s a must-win and it allows you to look at the final four games in a better way.”
Second is the result in Honduras. Still the lone defeat in the final round for the US, it was not the way they wanted to start the last phase of their journey toward the World Cup. After taking a 1-0 lead on a Clint Dempsey goal, the US allowed two second-half goals from Honduras to squander their early advantage.
“It still puts a pit in my stomach, what happened there in February,” Klinsmann said. “We were not able to adjust to the climate and the circumstances and now we have an opportunity to clean that thing.”
Next, the US doesn’t play another qualifier until September. That’s an awfully long time to let a result sit and many players on the US squad that play in Europe would be spending part of that time on vacation. That time off will take on a whole new tone with a win under their belt.
“Our performances have been good and the results have been great. If you win, you feel like a world-beater and if you lose, you feel like the worst player in the world,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “We’ve got a long time between this game and September and we want to have a good taste in our mouths come Tuesday night knowing that we’ve done a good job.”
They’ll do it in a building where they’ve had success in their only previous match, too, winning 2-1 over El Salvador in World Cup qualifying in 2009.
It’s also a building Johnson has grown familiar with, too, in his time with the Sounders FC.
“The fans are amazing. Whenever Seattle comes here to play, I find it one of the most difficult places to come play,” he said. “The fans are very passionate and we couldn’t ask for a better place to give us the homefield advantage.”