ANDREW MINTZ - Tuesday, July 7, 2015
The United States begins its Gold Cup campaign against Honduras tonight. Undefeated in its past five friendlies, the US looks to continue its stellar run of play in its first competitive match since the World Cup.
After inspiring victories against Germany and Holland during June, the Americans tuned up for the Gold Cup with a breezy 4-0 friendly win against Guatemala on Friday.
The Gold Cup functions as a stepping stone to the 2017 Confederations Cup. The winner of the tournament will face the winner of the 2013 Gold Cup (the USA) in a playoff match, with the victor qualifying for the Confederations Cup. The US automatically qualify if it wins in 2015 too.
12 CONCACAF teams will feature in the Gold Cup, broken down by four teams to each group. Group A: United States, Panama, Haiti, Honduras. Group B: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Jamaica, Canada. Group C: Mexico, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba.
The Group A squaring of the US against Honduras will be the first match between the two sides since their October 2014 friendly, a 1-1 draw. The Americans hold an all-time 14-4-4 record against Los Catrachos.
Honduras, who was easily knocked out of the 2014 World Cup, has had Gold Cup successes, reaching the semi-finals in the past three Gold Cup tournaments (2013, 2011, 2009). The Honduran roster features a band of young talent, as the likes of veterans Wilson Palacios, Roger Espinoza, and Víctor Bernárdez have been phased out of the team.
22-year old Andy Najar, formerly of DC United, is Honduras' dynamic playmaker, capable of dribbling past defenders and scoring goals. Oscar Boniek Garcia, the Houston Dynamo maestro, is a tactful midfielder who can also be dangerous getting up field.
The Americans should be well versed though against the gritty and physical style of soccer Honduras employs. CONCACAF veteran Kyle Beckerman has experienced cleaning up the midfield for years, while Captain Michael Bradley will be reaching his 100th US cap against Honduras. The expected chippy-style match is well suited for forwards Clint Dempsey and Chris Wondolowski, both having scored five career Gold Cup goals.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann's 23-man includes 17 players from last year's World Cup in Brazil and 10 players who have experienced Gold Cup success in the past, including six from the 2013 winning squad.
The 9:30pm ET match between the US and Honduras is set after the first Group A showdown of Panama against Haiti at Toyota Stadium in Frisco. The Americans follow up the match with games against Haiti, July 10th in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and Panama, July 13th in Kansas City, Kansas.