Noah Davis plays prophet as he looks ahead to the clash between the U.S. and one of Central America's best, Honduras.By Noah Davis
Who: United States vs. Honduras
What: Gold Cup semifinal
When: 7:00 ET, Thursday, July 23
Where: Soldier Field; Chicago IL
TV: Fox Soccer Channel and Telefutura
A well-taken Kenny Cooper penalty kick in the 105th minute proved to the be difference between the United States Men's National Team and Panama in the quarterfinals of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup. With the victory, Bob Bradley's American squad continued its reign of dominance during the regional championship and advanced to the semifinals where it will face Honduras, a team it defeated 2-0 during group play (and 2-1 during June World Cup qualifying). Although the Red, White, and Blue field a depleted roster, it should have enough talent to improve its Gold Cup record to 5-0-0 against the Catrachos.
A Different XI
Freddy Adu and Steve Cherundolo -- two members of the American starting line-up that featured in the first match between the two squads -- have returned to their club sides in Europe. Likewise, Benny Feilhaber and Charlie Davies, the two second-half substitutes who dramatically altered the U.S.'s play, are back across the Pond. (Bradley did recall Michael Parkhurst, who had rejoined FC Nordsjaelland, for the tilt.) Shorthanded, the Americans will likely feature a starting XI quite similar to the formation that took the field against Panama. Communication difficulties have plagued the squad throughout the tournament, but the increased familiarity of the players with each other should help to alleviate some of these struggles.
Where's the Defense?
After a stretch of more than 700 minutes without giving up a goal in Gold Cup group play, the U.S. team conceded two tallies against Honduras. Then, it let Panama on the board as well. Bradley's boys allowed a single shot on net against The Red Tide, but Blas Perez drilled the ball home after some exceedingly shoddy clearance by the American back four. The lack of solid clearance has been a theme throughout the tournament from the mix and match U.S. defense, but must come to a stop against a side of Honduras' quality. With Jimmy Conrad day-to-day after suffering a concussion, expect Clarence Goodson to pair with Chad Marshall. This duo will look to work together and return the Stars and Stripes to their clean sheet ways.
Third Time's the Charm?
Despite missing some of his best players, Reynaldo
Rueda has his squad into the semifinals for just the third time in nine
Gold Cup appearances. It defeated a tough Canadian club to earn a
rematch with the U.S. and a win would provide some much needed momentum
heading into the second half of World Cup 2010 qualifying. Carlos
Costly, who's tallied two of his team's six goals, has troubled the
American backline in the past and will need to continue to be dangerous
if his squad wants to turn aspirations of advancing to the final into
reality. The Catrachos stuck with the U.S. for the first hour of the
group play game, and there's little reason to think they can't repeat
this performance. An extra-time thriller wouldn't be a surprise.
Projected U.S. Line Up
Projected Honduras Line Up
United States 1-1 Honduras (U.S. wins 4-3 in penalty kicks.)
Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com.
Visit Goal.com for more coverage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.