The United States knew they would face a weakened Honduras team in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier at Rio Tinto Stadium, but nobody could imagine just how short-handed they would be. Victor Bernardez, Maynor Figueroa, Jerry Bengtson and Luis Garrido will all miss the match, while Oscar Boniek Garcia and Emilo Izaguirre may also be out, which would leave Honduras without more than half of their best XI.
Honduras' massive rash of injuries comes just a week after Panama had to take on the U.S. without their best striker, Blas Perez. While the U.S. has also had to deal with their fair share of injuries, there is no doubt that Lady Luck has found herself a comfortable home in the Americans' dressing room.
Bernardez and Garrido are out through suspension for yellow card accumulation, while Figueroa is injured. Boniek Garcia and Izaguirre both have knocks and may also be sidelined. Bengtson is another case, an odd case, though.
According to Diez, Bengtson was upset at being replaced by Roger Rojas in the starting lineup in Honduras' 2-0 win over Jamaica last Tuesday and has left the team ahead of the Catrachos' clash with the U.S. Bengtson is tops in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with seven goals, while his two tallies in the Hex have him as the joint leader. One of those goals came back on February 6 in San Pedro Sula, when he found the net in the 79th minute to give Honduras a 2-1 lead and hand the U.S. their lone loss in the final round of qualifying.
With him out, Honduras could use the lively Boniek Garcia, who caused the Americans fits in San Pedro Sula and set up Bengtson's match-winner, but reports are not optimistic about his ability to get fit by Tuesday. The prospects appear brighter for Izaguirre, who missed the February match through injury, but he is still in doubt.
As much as the Catrachos would love to have Bengtson, Boniek Garcia and Garrido available to them, they are probably more worried about the holes left by Bernardez and Figueroa. Carlo Costly and Rojas give Honduras two solid options in the attack, while Andy Najar is also available as a wide option. In the middle, Roger Espinoza and Wilson Palacios are good enough to mitigate some of the damage done by Garrido's absence. But at center back, Honduras doesn't have many options to replace their two starters.
In an ideal world, Honduras would call upon Osman Chavez to start in either Bernardez or Figueroa's place, but he is also injured. That leaves David Velasquez and Juan Pablo Montes, both of whom have single-digit caps, as Honduras' only options in the middle of defense. There is speculation that they may call Johnny Leveron in to provide some cover, but no matter who the Catrachos turn to, there is a massive gulf in quality between them and Bernardez and Figueroa.
The U.S. were already heavy favorites to beat Honduras on Tuesday after playing their best match of the Jurgen Klinsmann era in a 2-0 win over Panama to move to the top of the Hex, but these injuries, suspensions and the missing Bengtson have it looking like the Catrachos will head to Utah for an impossible task. Honduras are going to be horribly short-handed, and the U.S. look set to extend their unbeaten streak in home World Cup qualifiers to 25 matches.