Panama host USA on the fourth matchday of CONCACAF’s final Hexagonal round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ after each side had very different outcomes in the last matchday. Honduras, who were on the end of a humiliating 6-0 defeat by the Stars and Stripes in rainy San Jose, will look to bounce back against Costa Rica, who also came up empty in a 2-0 loss at the Azteca. Top-of-the-table Mexico travel to Port of Spain where they will meet a buoyant Trinidad and Tobago side after their resilient 1-0 win over the Panamanians.
*The big game *
Given how tight the table is in the Hexagonal round after three matches, every game carries a great deal of importance. However, Panama and USA’s clash at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City jumps out the most with both teams sitting in the middle of the standings, looking to shoot up in to the automatic qualification slots. Panama will be eager to respond positively following their disappointing showing in a loss to the Soca Warriors on Friday. The task will not be easy for Hernan Dario Gomez’s charges, though, as USA are coming off their best ever Hexagonal result and are breathing down *Los Canaleros’ *necks just one point behind them in the standings.
Honduras and Costa Rica will open the matchday in a duel of two Central American heavyweights when they meet in San Pedro Sula. Honduras will be hoping to recreate their 4-0 win over Costa Rica in 2009 on the road to South Africa 2010. In order for that to happen, coach Jorge Luis Pinto, who coached Costa Rica to their fairytale quarter-final run at Brazil 2014, will be hoping Alberth Elis, Anthony Lozano and Andy Najar have their goalscoring boots on. Costa Rica wrap up a tough two-match road stretch and will not be too disheartened by their 2-0 loss at the Azteca on Friday. *Los Ticos *were competitive throughout the match, but coach Oscar Ramirez will want the likes of Bryan Ruiz, Christian Bolanos and Johan Venegas to be more clinical in front of goal at Estadio Francisco Morazan.
Port of Spain plays host to the second match of the day when Trinidad and Tobago take on Mexico. T&T's new head coach Dennis Lawrence is under no illusions of the task at hand. "We can enjoy it for five minutes because the focus goes immediately on to Mexico," he said in his post-match news conference following the 1-0 win over Panama. "We have to start believing as a nation that it can be done." Mexico will enter the match as heavy favourites. Even without star players Andres Guardado and Jesus 'Tecatito' Corona, Mexico showed against Costa Rica that they have multiple threats in attack, including El Tri’s joint all-time top-scorer, Javier *Chicharito *Hernandez.
Player to watch *
*Kevin Molino (Trinidad and Tobago)
The Soca Warriors’ hero on Friday night, Minnesota United’s **Kevin Molino will be looking to add another chapter to his national team story by helping his team to what-would-be an historic victory over regional giants Mexico. The creative midfielder struck the winning goal against Panama to inject some life into Trinidad and Tobago’s final qualifying round campaign. As an indicator of the 26-year-old’s talent, in 2015 when former Orlando City team-mate Kaka was asked by *Gazzetta dello Sport *which of his team-mates he would recommend to AC Milan, he said: “Kevin Molino, he’s from Trinidad, a good forward. He must grow and learn, but he could do well.”
*Did you know? *
Clint Dempsey’s hat-trick against Honduras on Friday was his second for the national team and meant the Seattle Sounders forward became the Stars and Stripes’ all-time leading goalscorer in World Cup qualifiers with 17 in total. Dempsey now has 55 goals for the national team, putting him two goals from reaching Landon Donovan’s all-time record.
*What they said *
“We are now where we deserve to be, and where we should be since the beginning, in my opinion. Now we will prepare ourselves in the best way to fight for the next three points. On the field this group of players proved that they have the talent and the courage to take on any challenge,” *Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio *is pleased with his side’s position at the top of the table going into Tuesday’s match in Port of Spain.
*Fixtures (Round Five, Matchday 4) *
*28 March *
Trinidad and Tobago-Mexico
*Up Next (Round Five, Matchday 5) *
*8 June *
USA-Trinidad and Tobago