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Direct from Texas

Klinsmann, Donovan Expect Honduras to Play Tough

Disciplined defense, sturdy athletes, and a focused coach make Honduras a tough challenge no matter the competition. Jurgen Klinsmann is expecting a battle in Texas on Wednesday.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
July 23, 2013
11:00 PM
JURGEN KLINSMANN and his players on the United States national team, without fail, always say they have respect for their opposition. This time they really mean it.

It’s not that the U.S. hasn’t respected the threats and talents of El Salvador or Costa Rica, but they head into this Gold Cup semifinal against a Honduran team that has done more than enough to earn the attention of the Americans.

“Honduras is a very, very tough team because of the way they compete, the way they stay compact on the field both ways,” Klinsmann said in a news conference Tuesday. “They’re moving forward in a 4-3-3, defensively switch over in a 4-5-1, and they do that really well.”

Los Catrachos are the only CONCACAF team to pin a loss on the red-hot U.S. this year, and the squad gave the Yanks a stern test in a World Cup qualifying match in Salt Lake City, too. The U.S. was able to break through and get a 1-0 victory, but that match showed how tough the Hondurans can be to break down.

The key to its success is staying compact, attacking only when there’s little chance of being caught on a counterattack. It’s not the best soccer to watch—or play—but the Bicolor has made itself tough for the U.S. by sticking to its bunkering method.

“I think it has a lot to do with commitment, with discipline, and that shows the handwriting of Luis Suarez,” Klinsmann said of his opposing number. “He gives that team the belief to get games done and get the result and grind it out.”

There are lots of teams, especially in CONCACAF, who try to put 10 men behind the ball against the U.S., so what makes Honduras particularly effective?

“They’re a little atypical for Central American countries in that they’re more physical,” said U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan. “They’re a little more athletic, generally, so that matches up a little better against us. We tend to be more athletic than some of the teams we play in Central America, but they have players that can compete in that way.”

Like the U.S., some of Honduras’ best athletes are missing, with Emilio Izaguirre, Wilson Palacios, Carlo Costly, and Maynor Figueroa all out of the tournament. Still remaining are defenders Osman Chavez and J.C. Garcia and goalkeeper Donis Escober. Their experience lends to the team having even more of a defensive feel, something that has earned the respect of one American defender who has been watching the tournament on television thus far.

“I think that they’re pretty organized and have some great talent on the field,” said center back Omar Gonzalez, a late addition to the Gold Cup roster. “They do well to get behind the ball and defend properly.” But true to position, Gonzalez also said the Catrachos’ attack can be dangerous.

How can the Americans avoid getting frustrated by the compact defense and ensure safe passage to the final?

“Just patience,” said Brek Shea, who scored to break Costa Rica’s defense in the final group game. “I don’t think teams can stay with us for 90 minutes. Late in the games we have gotten a lot more goals. We just have to get the first and second one and keep going.”


  • The Cowboys Stadium turf is rolled up in the bowels of the building with a grass surface laid down under the stadium’s massive Jumbotron. Like many temporary surfaces, it looks a bit suspect, but the U.S. doesn’t seem to mind. “It’s always, whatever it is, both teams gotta play on it, so we always make the best of it,” Klinsmann said. “There’s no complaints on our end about anything.”

    “I think that we’ll be prepared either way,” forward Chris Wondolowski said. “It might change a little bit of our tactics, but I think, whatever, if the ball can roll, we’ll be out there and we will still have our same philosophy.”

  • A Gold Cup knockout doubleheader was the first sporting event hosted by Cowboys Stadium, and it could be the last. The five-year-old stadium isn’t going anywhere, but reports this week indicate AT&T is close to purchasing the stadium naming rights.

  • Former FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea knew he’d be making his return to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex this week, but he thought he’d be wearing red-and-white stripes vertically instead of horizontally. “I was excited to play with Stoke versus Dallas,” he said, “but I’m excited to play in front of those fans again.”

    Jon Arnold is an ASN contributing editor. Follow him on Twitter.
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