The U.S. Men's national team will meet Honduras for the 24th time this week and it's hard to imagine a more nerve wracking addition for American fans. Perhaps a look at history will provide enough perspective to calm the anxiety. At the highest level, the U.S. has been successful against Honduras. The U.S. sport a 15-4-4 (W-L-D) record all-time which means those 3 points that fans desperately want have been earned 65% of the time. That's not very reassuring since the U.S. need 3 points? That number jumps to 81% on U.S. soil, but that's still not a lock. Let's drill into the results and see if there is more to the story.
It wasn't so long ago that a 2-1 loss in Honduras started a similar World Cup qualifying panic attack back in 2013. The U.S. went on to win the Hex and perhaps this loss woke them up, but they've already given up that luxury before this event. Two of the other losses occurred in friendlies - one at home in 2010 and the other in 1993 in Honduras. Let's save that fourth loss for later. It's special.
The draws (among which was the biggest U.S. Honduras game ever)
The U.S. has only drawn Honduras once since 1994, a streak of 17 matches, leading one to believe the odds of a draw are slim. Or if the glass is half empty, we're due for one. The biggest official draw between these countries was the first Gold Cup in 1991. The U.S. and Honduras played the final to 0-0 before the U.S. won the Cup 4-3 following Fernando Clavijo's penalty kick.
World Cup qualifying
World Cup qualifying has been tight historically. There have been 8 qualifiers dating back to 1965 and all of them have been decided by one goal or less. The U.S. holds a 5-2-1 edge and are 3-1 at home. Remember that special loss? Here it is. That one blemish at home came at the hands of a Bruce Arena coached team back in 2001. Honduras escaped with a 3-2 win despite a brace from Earnie Stewart, but it must be said that the penalty awarded to Honduras for the second goal was an absolutely horrendous call. Otherwise Arena's record has been stellar against Honduras with a 4-1 record and +10 goal differential.
While the U.S. has clearly had the upper hand in the series there is enough Honduras success to keep fans on edge. The fact that no qualifier between these two countries has been decided by more than one goal indicates this one will be tense. The fact that Honduras has beaten the U.S. twice and drawn once on our turf reminds us that the breaks don't always go your way. That's the slim margin the U.S. are working with.
The recent results (and don't look at the shot totals)
Honduras hasn't played the U.S. since the last Gold Cup in 2015, a game the U.S. won 2-1. The U.S. also drew Los Catrachos in a friendly early in 2015. Despite the US owning 55% of the possession across those two games, Honduras outshot the U.S. 28-16, but that was not a-typical in the Klinsmann era. The U.S. was outshot 555 to 484 this cycle under Klinsmann but turned that into more shots on target (212 to 187) and a +30 goal differential. Klinsmann always valued quality over quantity. The results were similar against Honduras with the U.S. winning shots on target by 6 to 5.
It's hard to translate MLS to the international stage but looking at the LA Galaxy's shot tendencies last year it isn't a reach to say that Bruce Arena's approach to the game mirrors Klinsmann's. The LA Galaxy were outshot 520 to 358 last year despite holding 51% of the possession, and the Galaxy outscored their opponents 54 to 39.
What can history tell us about the future?
Honduras will come in knowing that they can get a result on U.S. soil as they have recent results they can point to. This won't be a tentative team. That said, they will no doubt sit deep on defense and work for that point by peppering as many shots as they can at Tim Howard and hope to sneak one through. The U.S. will take most of the ball, will be patient and careful not to waste any opportunities. Honduras might win the shot battle but the U.S. will have quality chances. All odds favor a one goal game. Who converts their chances will soon be documented in the history books alongside the other 23 matches.
Extra: If you are interested in a scary movie watch the entertaining highlights from that 2001 qualifier in Washington, DC. You also get to see Landon Donovan when he was sporting the Gyasi Zardes hair.