A six-pointer that really matters

[USA-HONDURAS] For all the talk about the U.S. road success in recent World Cup qualifying cycles, it only matters because the USA has been almost perfect at home over the last three cycles. It carries a 24-game unbeaten streak into Tuesday's match against Honduras at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The last loss was a 3-2 defeat to the Catrachos at Washington's RFK Stadium 10 days before 9/11.

What's remarkable about the home streak is that the USA has won every game that's mattered. The only two ties in the 24-game unbeaten streak came to Jamaica (1-1) in 2004 and Costa Rica (2-2) in 2009 after it had achieved its objective -- in the case of 2004 of reaching the final round of qualifying and in case of 2009 of qualifying for the World Cup.

A win over Honduras on Tuesday would leave the USA in the lead in the Hexagonal heading into the home stretch of double fixture dates in September and October -- and most important, a lead of at least five points and more likely six (barring a Panama win on Tuesday in Costa Rica) on the only team that matters, the fourth-place team.

Since the top three teams automatically go to Brazil 2014 from the Hexagonal, the USA's position in the top three after 10 games is irrelevant. (The fourth-place team advances to a playoff against New Zealand, but no one wants to depend on a playoff series even if it's against the unfancied All Whites)

All will change in case Honduras repeats its road win of 12 years ago and captures this veritable six-pointer. The USA would likely drop to either second place or third (depending on goal difference) with a loss to the Catrachos and Mexico chasing in fourth place.

At the midway point of the 2011 Hexagonal, the USA was cruising in qualifying with an eight-point lead on fourth-place Jamaica, but the Honduras loss, along with losses on the road to Mexico and Costa Rica, meant that the USA entered Day 9 in danger of potentially being eliminated in case of a loss to Jamaica in Boston.

As it turned out, a 2-1 U.S. win over Jamaica on a late Joe-Max Moore penalty kick combined with some unlikely results in the other two games the same day meant the USA clinched a berth in the 2002 World Cup on a Sunday afternoon when soccer and the NFL and all other sports were overshadowed by news of the launch of the NATO invasion of Afghanistan.

The 3-2 loss to Honduras -- the first home defeat in qualifying since the 1985 loss to Costa Rica knocked the USA out of contention for the 1986 World Cup -- was as shocking as the atmosphere at RFK Stadium, where Honduran fans dominated the sellout crowd of sellout crowd of 54,282 -- the largest home crowd ever for a qualifier.

"Only in America, I guess," said U.S. coach Bruce Arena of the crowd that prompted talk of U.S. Soccer dropping Washington as a home city for qualifiers.

Earnie Stewart had both goals for the USA but missed a chance to put the USA ahead late in the first half when his penalty kick was stopped by Noel Valladares.

Coincidentally, Valladares is the only player who played in the 2001 game and will be playing on Tuesday.

Hexagonal Schedule:
Tuesday, June 18
USA vs. Honduras
Costa Rica vs. Panama

Hexagonal Standings:
10 USA 3-1-1 6/3
8 Costa Rica 2-2-1 6/4
8 Mexico 1-5-0 3/2
7 Honduras 2-1-2 6/6
6 Panama 1-3-1 5/5
2 Jamaica 0-2-4 2/8

U.S. Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (7): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Tijuana), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Roma), Joe Corona (Tijuana), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (AZ), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders)

Honduras Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Noel Valladares (Olimpia), Donis Escober (Olimpia), Kevin Hernandez (Real Espana)
DEFENDERS (10): Brayan Beckeles (Olimpia), Victor Bernardez (San Jose), Osman Chavez (Wisla Krakow), Juan Carlos Garcia (Olimpia), Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic), Jhony Leveron (Vancouver Whitecaps), Juan Pablo Montes (Motagua), Arnold Peralta (Rangers), Orlin Peralta (Vida), Jose Velasquez (Victoria)
MIDFIELDERS(8): Marvin Chavez (San Jose), Jorge Claros (Hibernian), Roger Espinoza (Wigan), Boniek Garcia (Houston Dynamo), Luis Garrido (Estrella Roja), Mario Martinez (Seattle Sounders), Andy Najar (Anderlecht), Wilson Palacios (Stoke City)
FORWARDS (5): Carlo Costly (Veria), Rony Martinez (Real Sociedad), Jerry Palacios (Alajuelense), Diego Reyes (Real Sociedad), Roger Rojas (Olimpia)
7 comments about "A six-pointer that really matters".
  1. Joy Hottington, June 18, 2013 at 7:33 a.m.

    If they beat Honduras and Panama loses, then we can clinch top four with a win @ Panama even if nothing good happens in any of our other games and they win all their other games. 7 point difference with 4 games to play. The math gets better and better with a win today.

  2. Alexander Lozano, June 18, 2013 at 11 a.m.

    Still have bad memories of that day in RFK, as it's the only WCQ I've attended which the USA lost...plus, it's the only game I've attended in which I was doused with beer after the game, and I've been to many USA-Mexico games! Of course, the events of 10 days later put all that in perspective but still would love to see us CRUSH a depleted Honduras! But must not overlook them & don't think we will...the WCQ home streak & top spot in Hex continues into September!!!

  3. I w Nowozeniuk, June 18, 2013 at 11:30 a.m.

    What matters most is whether the U.S. squad can perform the KISS methodology back to back; or revert to its past myriad of inconsistencies..

  4. Chris Sapien , June 18, 2013 at 1:04 p.m.

    What we need to see is the continuation of attacking menace by our midfield and clinical finishing by our strikers!! The team chemistry is palpable now, and everyone who gets plugged-in has contributed. Here's to splitting the point gap wide open......Make us proud, Sandy Utah!!

  5. I w Nowozeniuk, June 18, 2013 at 2:43 p.m.

    CS, "attacking menace?" Never observed a team play in such a fashion, be it Barca, Real Madrid, Bayern M, Man-U, or any other top club.

  6. Power Dive, June 18, 2013 at 3:31 p.m.

    Iw, you clearly haven't been to Iowa...


  7. Chris Sapien , June 18, 2013 at 7:18 p.m.

    I'm not gonna' explain that one......everyone gets it. Ok, just for you.....ie Bradley head-up, carrying at full speed, forcing defenders to commit and opening up lanes that should be exploited both on the flanks and in behind the CDs! Attacking Menace. Jones does similar, but usually on a counter & later in the game, slightly off center of the pitch.

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