The United States Men’s National Team opened 2022 World Cup qualifying by drawing against El Salvador and Canada. With two points, manager Gregg Berhalter has led his side to fifth place in the eight-team group. This international window closes with a trip to Honduras for a match at the Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula.
This is the 27th all-time meeting between the two nations, with the USMNT holding a 17-4-5 advantage. Honduras is in the midst of an interesting year, featuring strong performances but still somewhat lacking results. An eye-opening third-place finish at the Nations League was followed by a disappointing elimination in the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup, losing 3-0 to Mexico. The first two qualifier matches resulted in draws against Canada and El Salvador.
Los Catrachos are managed by Fabián Coito, who was hired to the role in February of 2019. He spent many years with the Uruguay program and won the 2017 South American Youth Football Championship. The 54-year-old has compiled a 9-8-8 record during his two-and-a-half years in charge, notching notable victories over Panama and Costa Rica.
Coito named a 26-player roster for qualifying, featuring a 14/12 split between domestic and international talents. Despite playing every minute of the Gold Cup, defender Kevin Álvarez is not included. Other familiar names such as Roger Espinoza, Jerry Bengston, and Alberth Elis are absent from the squad.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Luis López (Real España), Edrick Menjívar (Olimpia), Marlon Licona (Motagua)
DEFENDERS (9): Maynor Figueroa (Houston Dynamo), Johnny Leverón (Olimpia), Andy Nájar (D.C. United), Félix Crisanto (Olimpia), Marcelo Pereira (Motagua), Diego Rodríguez (Motagua), Allans Vargas (Real España), Danilo Acosta (LA Galaxy), José García (Olimpia)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Boniek García (Houston Dynamo), Bryan Acosta (FC Dallas), Alexander López (Alajuelense), Deybi Flores (Panetolikos), Brayan Moya (1º de Agosto), Carlos Pineda (Olimpia), Edwin Rodríguez (Olimpia), Kervin Arriaga (Marathón)
FORWARDS (6): Romell Quioto (CF Montréal), Anthony Lozano (Cádiz), Eddie Hernández (Olimpia), Jonathan Toro (Académica), Rigoberto Rivas (Reggina), Edwin Solano (Marathón)
Coito alternates between the 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 formations, showing a recent preference for the former as a modern 4-2-3-1. The overall team strategy appears to be focused on long balls, breaking forward on the counter-attack with little warning. The wingers and strikers tend to invert, with the former pushing inward and the latter receiving passes running away from the goal. Based on recent results, the main weakness is defending crosses and set pieces.
There were nine changes to the squad for the El Salvador fixture, which seemed to be more of a second-choice group. Coito also opted for a two-striker formation, but the attack still struggled in the final third. Los Catrachos’ production can be feast or famine, scoring in bunches or being shut out. Against the USMNT, expect the starters to be well-rested and a return to the 4-3-3.
Goalkeeper Luis López is firmly entrenched in the starter role, playing every minute at the Nations League and Gold Cup. He has a penchant for big moments, thriving on penalties and close-range efforts. His first instinct on many saves appears to be a kick-out, using his entire body to stop the ball. The RCD España player does tend to surrender rebounds, although most are shepherded to a safe area.
At 38 years old, this is likely the last rodeo for team captain Maynor Figueroa. The versatile defender has racked up a nation-leading 172 caps for Los Catrachos, providing veteran experience at center back. His calming presence is most evident during possession, as he is capable of playing out of pressure and locating teammates across the field. Marcelo Pereira started in the Nations League but was curiously limited to a single half of play at the Gold Cup. His hard tackling and set piece prowess could be important assets against the USMNT.
The left back position is a decision between Johnny Leverón and Diego Rodríguez. The former, a 31-year-old with Olimpia, is far more experienced and can play a variety of roles. The latter, a defender at Motagua, made his senior international debut this year and quickly became a favorite of Coito. He pushes high up the field, disrupting opponents and facilitating possession closer to the final third. After struggling with a variety of injury issues, right back Andy Nájar has made his return to the squad and drew a penalty in the match against Canada. His ability to read the game – knowing when to step into a tackle or play the correct pass – provides perhaps the most on-field influence out of the entire squad.
Outside of the El Salvador match, holding midfielder Deybi Flores — an energetic runner who is constantly looking to dispense tackles — has yet to miss a minute this year. He is also the beginning of most attacks, a reliable asset in the build-up. Bryan Acosta could serve as his partner, playing in more of a box-to-box role. His progressive passing, ability to win aerial duels, and long-range shooting could trouble an inexperienced USMNT. For more attacking or defensive shapes, Boniek Garcia and Kervin Arriaga could also factor into the rotation.
Reggina forward Rigoberto Rivas possesses a certain element of flair, particularly dangerous when cutting in from the wing. On the right day, he can be a competent scorer from long range and floating to the back post to receive crosses. The other side might feature Edwin Rodríguez of Olimpia — one of the top developing talents in the program — depending on injury status. His passing and shuttling in the build-up add a balance to the front-line, enhanced by a youthful vigor. Alexander López is a fixture in the Honduran lineups at attacking midfielder. The 29-year-old with Alajuelense hits diagonally lofted through balls that can be a challenge to block, while also beguiling defenders on set pieces. The multi-faceted Jonathan Toro might also make an appearance.
The striker position is a question, particularly in the absence of Elis and Bengston. Attacking midfielder Brayan Moya of 1º de Agosto started as a false nine against Canada, which is an option but rarely the first choice for any manager. Romell Quioto is a dynamic, aggressive problem in the final third, but Coito seems to not be his biggest supporter. This match could call for the inclusion of target striker Anthony “Choco” Lozano, especially if Honduras is forced into lower-percentage bunker-and-counter opportunities.
Honduras is coming off a decent summer and solid result against Canada, but this match has a definite talent disparity. Gregg Berhalter can grab a crucial win on the road, getting a little closer to the rough estimate of 20 points to ensure qualification. The harsh confines of San Pedro Sula present a challenge to any visiting opponent, and the younger USMNT must come out the gates hot after two disappointing results.
“Logically, we are going to try to find, as we have looked for in the two games, three points against the United States with a team that has recovered at home,” Coito said after the El Salvador fixture. “We are going to impose certain conditions of the game. We are going to be believe that we can. I am very confident. We are doing well and we are going to play with a strong team... As locals, we are going to have to impose certain conditions.”
The match is scheduled for Wednesday, September 8th at 10:05 p.m. Eastern, 7:05 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include UNIVERSO, Paramount+, and FUBO TV (free trial).