USA will try to secure their spot at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ with victory on Saturday in Honduras, while the hosts are seeking their first appearance on the world stage since 1982.
Mexico will host El Salvador and Costa Rica will entertain the already-ousted Trinidad and Tobago in other matches of the penultimate round of North American regional qualifying for South Africa 2010. The day's pivotal match will be at San Pedro Sula, where Honduras has won eight straight matches in FIFA World Cup qualifying, but facing a USA squad that has won five in a row over Honduras, though none of the matches were in the Central American nation.
"We understand the challenge," USA coach Bob Bradley said. "This game means everything to Honduras and its people and atmosphere in the stadium will be loud, passionate, exciting.
The challenge to go there (Honduras) and come away with three points is one we're embracing,
"We've seen that in other places and can draw upon those experiences. I think that will work well for us. We're excited about the opportunity we have. The challenge to go there and come away with three points is one we're embracing."
The Americans, seeking a sixth consecutive trip to the FIFA World Cup finals, top the table with 16 points off five wins and a draw in eight matches. Mexico is on 15 with Honduras at 13, Costa Rica at 12 and the Salvadorans at eight. The three top teams after next Wednesday's last qualifying matches will book berths in South Africa. The fourth-place finisher will meet South America's fifth-place finisher to determine another World Cup berth.
Costa Rica will play the Americans in Washington next Wednesday, while Mexico will visit Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras plays at El Salvador in the other concluders next week. "Ideally we can finish up things Saturday but there are factors in all of this that are sometimes out of our control. It has been a very tight final round," Bradley said. "We all understand the responsibility. Now we're excited to finish the job."
The USA squad will be without injured midfielder Clint Dempsey while Honduras will be without captain Amado Guevara, on a card accumulation suspension. The yellow card issue is a key consideration for the Americans, who can ill afford more cautions ahead of the Costa Rica match without a win at Honduras.
Strikers Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore are among eight USA players with one caution entering Saturday's match. "The yellow card situation is a challenging one," Bradley said. "We have to find some balance to this one. And finally our discipline is important. We're pleased in the last two games we didn't pick up any yellow cards."