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USA U-23 vs. Honduras, 2021 Olympic qualifying: What to watch for

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Tokyo or bust.

Mexico v USA - 2020 Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images

It all comes down to this for the United States and their quest to qualify for the Men’s Olympic Soccer tournament for the first time since 2008. A familiar foe stands between the Americans and a trip to Tokyo. It was Honduras who sent the U.S. home empty handed back in 2015, the last time they attempted to qualify. A 2-0 loss thanks to an Alberth Elis brace was the result then. Can Jason Kreis’ side get over the hump and get the USMNT program back on the Olympic stage? Win and they’re in. Loss and it’s three straight embarrassing moments for all of U.S. Soccer. Here are a few things to watch for when the U.S. take on Honduras for a berth in the 2021 Summer Olympics.

The Ultimate Goal

After a disappointing loss to Mexico in which the U.S. attack failed to offer any real threat, there are questions being asked of this team’s scoring acumen. With just five goals in three matches, four of which came late against a poor Dominican Republic, someone will need to step up when it matters most in the attack to ensure the team’s berth in the Olympics. Jesus Ferreira has been the team’s go-to No. 9 option when it’s mattered most so far, but hasn’t exactly made the job his. Sebastian Soto got a chance against Mexico and did very little as well. With the struggles of the strikers apparent, the wingers haven’t really added much in the way of a goal scoring threat either.

It may seem like a simple concept, but in crucial matches like this one, it’s the big-time players who step up. Unfortunately for this squad there really isn’t one or two standout performers on the field. The collective has done enough to get this far, but someone is going to need to make the match theirs against Honduras. One special moment will likely be the difference between going to the Olympics and another qualifying failure.

Getting Defensive

With the extreme lack of creative midfielders in this squad, Jason Kreis has opted to start with three defensive-minded midfielders in each of the previous two matches. Will he continue that conservative approach when he lays all his cards out on the table? Or will he call on someone like Djordje Mihailovic to step into the midfield three and act as an attacking hub to drive the team forward? That was the option he took against Costa Rica. This match is a similar level in difficulty, so perhaps we’ll see something similar.

Always a Threat

Despite their senior team falling down the Concacaf pecking order recently, Honduras always seems to have a strong team at this level of play. They won their group and have qualified for four of the last five Olympic games, including each of the last three. Even with the unforgiving qualifying process, Honduras just seems to get the job done, while the U.S. doesn’t.

Los Catrachos are led by star attacking midfielder Edwin Rodriguez. The 21-year-old playmaker pulls the strings for his side, while also being a dangerous goal scoring threat. He already has one goal this tournament and will be the focal point for the U.S. to try and keep contained. The American defensive midfielders will have their hands full all night as this could be the key battle that determines the outcome of the match.