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USA vs. Honduras, 2021 CONCACAF Nations League Finals: Scouting Honduras

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The USMNT opens the inaugural competition.

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Following the friendly against Switzerland, the United States Men’s National Team heads to Denver, Colorado for the 2021 CONCACAF Nations League Finals. For the first of two matches, Gregg Berhalter’s side takes on Honduras in the semifinal round. The opposite side of the bracket features Mexico and Costa Rica.

Historically, this is the 25th meeting between the two nations, with the USMNT holding a 16-4-5 all-time record. Honduras qualified for the final four by finishing atop Group C with an undefeated 3-0-1 record, overcoming Martinique and Trinidad and Tobago. The team was last in action in March, drawing with Belarus and losing to Greece. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Los Catrachos only played two matches in 2020.

Honduras is managed by Fabián Coito, appointed to the role in February of 2019. He is trying to lead the country to a fourth World Cup appearance, the last coming at the 2014 edition. The 54-year-old Uruguayan previously worked with various La Celeste youth teams, finishing second at the 2011 U-17 World Cup and fourth at the 2017 U-20 World Cup, and had a brief stint as the interim head coach at the senior level.

Coito named a 23-player squad for the Nations League Finals, featuring some of the country’s respected veterans and a smattering of future potential stars. The team includes 13 call-ups from the Honduran Liga Nacional, five based in Europe, and four competing in Major League Soccer. Defender Maylor Núñez is on the roster but was forced to make an “emergency withdrawal” due to an injury. Following “a very long and loaded year at the club level,” active leading scorer and domestic Golden Boot winner Jerry Bengtson was left out to make room for other forwards.

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GOALKEEPERS (3): Luis López (Real España), Edrick Menjívar (Olimpia), Alex Güity (Olimpia)

DEFENDERS (8): Maynor Figueroa (Houston Dynamo), Johnny Leverón (Olimpia), Éver Alvarado (Olimpia), Marcelo Pereira (Motagua), Kevin Álvarez (Norrköping), Diego Rodríguez (Motagua), Maylor Núñez (Olimpia), Elvin Oliva (Olimpia)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Boniek García (Houston Dynamo), Bryan Acosta (FC Dallas), Alexander López (Alajuelense), Rigoberto Rivas (Reggina), Deybi Flores (Olimpia), Jhow Benavídez (Real España), Walter Martínez (Motagua), Edwin Rodríguez (Olimpia), Jonathan Rubio (Chaves)

FORWARDS (3): Romell Quioto (CF Montreal), Alberth Elis (Boavista), Anthony Lozano (Cádiz)

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Coito alternates between the 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 formations, indicating the latter will be deployed. In a recent pre-tournament interview, he shared his awareness that the USMNT is the clear favorite, but believes that Honduras is capable of winning the match. His tactics will be more reactive to the opponent, with the forwards being given additional defensive responsibilities.

Projected Honduras Starting XI (via Lineupbuilder.com)

The goalkeeper position might be the most difficult lineup decision. Athletic shot stopper Luis López of Real España has been the presumed number one since 2018, earning 28 caps. However, C.D. Olimpia’s Edrick Menjívar started both friendlies in March. The 28-year-old box controller recently won the domestic league and has the support of local fans. While experience can be an asset in tournaments, expect Coito to opt for the relative newcomer.

Team captain Maynor Figueroa is the most-capped player in national team history. The 38-year-old Houston Dynamo defender can play any position on the back line and is comfortable in possession. The preferred second center back has been Marcelo Pereira of FC Motagua, appearing in the last four Honduras fixtures. He is a hard tackler, dangerous on set pieces, and capable of unleashing driven passes to spring the counter attack. Johnny Leverón, once considered the future of the position, was included in the roster but has yet to appear during Coito’s tenure.

Éver Alvarado has been away from the team since 2019 but is the best left back on the roster. The 29-year-old plays a safe game, making smart passes and judiciously choosing when to venture forward. The opposite side is occupied by Kevin Álvarez of Swedish club IFK Norrköping. He’s another relative newcomer to the squad, making one appearance in 2015 and two in 2021. His sensibilities are that of a modern fullback, with frequent overlapping runs deep into the final third that will have to be monitored by the American back line.

The midfielder pairing is another important decision for Coito as there are merits to going with a more advanced or defensive pair. Olimpia six Deybi Flores has seen increased playing time at the international level and could play an important role against the USMNT. Energetic pursuit of the ball can sometimes pull him out of position, but he is patient during the build-up. Bryan Acosta is a versatile box-to-box that will control the game and has an accurate long-range shot. Boniek García, a 37-year-old with 126 caps, and attacker Alexander López might also work their way into the starting lineup.

If not lined up at striker, Romell Quioto of CF Montréal should be on the left wing. He is a skillful dribbler, capable of hold-up play, and is a target on set pieces. Finishing his second season on loan at Reggina from Inter Milan, Rigoberto Rivas can line up out wide and is one of the most dynamic talents on the field. The 22-year-old is equally dangerous when crossing or cutting inside.

Versatile attacker Alberth Elis recently completed his first season at Boavista in the Primeira Liga, scoring eight goals in 31 appearances. Coito would not commit to playing the 25-year-old at striker or on the wing, but the manager voiced an appreciation for his ability to control the game and drop back on defense when playing in the middle of the field. Cádiz forward Anthony “Choco” Lozano was also specifically referenced during the press conference. His target man abilities would pair nicely with a faster partner.

The strength of this roster is in the attacking players, potentially turning this match into a multi-goal affair. While not using three central midfielders would be a curious choice, Honduras can focus on a bunker-and-counter strategy against the favored USMNT, looking to break out and push numbers forward. Recent opponents had success playing through the wings, taking advantage of the space ceded or abandoned by the fullbacks. There is a definite difference in quality between the two squads, but knockout rounds have been known to produce improbable results.

The match is scheduled for Thursday, June 3rd at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, 4:30 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include CBS Sports Network, TUDN, Univision, Paramount+, and FUBO TV (free trial).