RICH FIDLER - Wednesday, July 22, 2009
US Men's National Team coach Bob Bradley will lead his team against Honduars for the third time in less than two months on Thursday evening as the US looks to advance to the CONCACAF Gold Cup finals.
Defender Michael Parkhurst, who had left the squad to return to FC Nordsjælland in Denmark for their season opener, has traveled back across the Atlantic to join his teammates in Chicago. Parkhurst was brought back after defender Jimmy Conrad was ruled out of the game following a severe concussion in the thrilling 2-1 victory over Panama on Saturday.
Bradley will have only 19 players to select from on his roster Thursday evening. Aside from Conrad his entire starting eleven against Panama will be available, including goal scorer Kyle Beckerman, who knotted the score of the quarterfinal match at one, thanks to a stunning second half strike.
The defense should see Clarence Goodson replace Conrad in the middle, and pair alongside Columbus Crew's Chad Marshall. They will likely be flanked by Jay Heaps and Heath Pearce in defense, though Bradley could replace Heaps with experimental Brad Evans on the right side of the defense.
The midfield should stay similar to that seen on Saturday in Philadelphia, with Robbie Rogers and Stuart Holden on the outside, and Beckerman and Logan Pause roaming the middle of the field.
Bradley also had to call in local Chicago Fire goalkeeper John Busch to play back-up for the team's certain Thursday starter, Valerenga's Troy Perkins, after releasing Luis Robles back to his 2. Bundesliga club FC Kaiserslautern.
In the first of their two previous meetings, the Americans overcame a early first half deficit to defeat Honduras at Soldier Field in World Cup Qualifying, 2-1. That squad was heavily laced with European based players. Landon Donovan scored just before the half on a penalty kick, and Carlos Bocanegra headed home the winner in the 68th minute.
The Gold Cup semi-final match up will be a repeat of the group play affair that took place at RFK in Washington, DC just two weeks ago. That game was scoreless until the Americans broke away to a 2-0 victory thanks to a pair of quick strikes from the MLS-based duo of Santino Quaranta and Brian Ching late in the second half.
Ching, the Houston Dynamo striker, should once again start alongside an elusive Davy Arnaud, with Kenny Cooper and Quaranta available off the bench should the Red, White and Blue need an offensive boost.
The other semifinal match-up will see rival Mexico take on Costa Rica in the late game at Soldier Field. Both teams will look to advance to the final and face the Americans or Hondurans on Sunday afternoon at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.