Skip to content

Brazil 2014 or bust! Final World Cup push begins for United States national team

Feb 5, 2013, 7:30 PM EDT

Klinsmann publicly hit out at Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey after their moves back to MLS. Klinsmann publicly hit out at Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey after their moves back to MLS.

Tension will be high Wednesday in Honduras, where the United States soccer team launches its final push toward World Cup 2014, as security concerns and the grave consequence of failure hang heavy over coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his U.S. 24-man assembly.

Should the United States be expected to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil? Absolutely.

Is it a slam dunk? Absolutely not.

The United States national team, under the direction of its enthusiastic, enigmatic German coach, meets an improving and confident Honduras as the “money round” of qualifying commences. Small though it is, Honduras advanced to its second World Cup finals in 2010 and qualified for the 2012 Olympics (when the United States did not).

Wednesday’s match in San Pedro Sula, the most violent city on the planet according to the U.S. State Department, is the first of 10 final-stage qualifying matches in the CONCACAF region (North and Central America and the Caribbean). Final round qualifying runs through October.

The Hondurans hope to maximize any edge against the more experienced Americans by kicking off at 4 p.m ET, when the heat and humidity could become problematic for the majority of U.S. men who make their living in Europe.

(MORE:  Weather for Wednesday in Honduras: a scorcher)

(MORE: Security concerns in San Pedro Sula)

The United States must finish top three in the six-team group (along with Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Panama) for automatic passage to Brazil ’14. The group’s fourth-place finisher gets one last chance, a home-and-away series in November against the Oceania winner (probably New Zealand) for the 32-team tournament’s final spot.

Mexico and the United States are favorites to advance, and qualification certainly has become habit here in domestic soccer’s modern era. The country last failed to qualify in 1986, so this would be U.S. Soccer’s seventh consecutive World Cup finals appearance.

While the odds favor a U.S. side blessed with Tim Howard, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey – not headliner “stars” in Europe, but easily in the next tier of talent, highly valued men for solid clubs in esteemed leagues of the Old World – nothing can be taken for granted. The tension here lies solidly in consequence of failure.

Such a thing would be viewed as catastrophe in U.S. Soccer, a crash in the ongoing ascent of the sport domestically.

Not all is perfect in the U.S. cause. Midfield creators are scarce and the back line still has questions as a new generation, led by center back Geoff Cameron and two young German-Americans, transitions in.

Landon Donovan, responsible for single-handedly rescuing a couple of the potentially wayward matches in the 2010 World Cup qualifying cycle, can’t quite untangle his career mid-life crisis. Donovan, 30, remains on extended break and not with the U.S. team in Honduras.

(MORE: Landon Donovan’s career crisis)

Semifinal stage qualifying was bumpier than expected, beginning with a draw in Guatemala and then (egad!) a loss at Jamaica. Eventually, Klinsmann and Co. righted matters by taking good care of business at home and qualifying for the final round atop the group.

A recent 0-0 draw with Canada didn’t help assuage any concerns, never mind that Klinsmann’s “B” team was minus its top talent.

(MORE: Why the points are so important in Wednesday’s match)

Those semifinal road wobbles raised red flags of concern among media and supporters, especially as Klinsmann (pictured above, Tuesday in Honduras along with Michael Bradley) had been recruited – at almost five times the salary of his predecessor, Bob Bradley, whose base was less than $500,000 annually – to move the United States forward, off a plateau.

The United States made it to World Cup 2006 but looked immediately unsound and exited quickly. Only a dramatic, late Donovan goal in 2010 helped the United States slip into the second round. But a subsequent Round-of-16 loss left the bitter, incomplete taste of opportunity lost.

Now it’s on Klinsmann, who guided Germany to a third-place finish in 2006 but is going through his first qualifying campaign as a manager. (Germany was invited automatically in 2006 as hosts.)

(MORE: Wednesday a national soccer holiday in Honduras)

“There is no easy way, not for Mexico, not for the United States, not for anybody,” Klinsmann said via national teleconference Monday just before charter departure into Central America. “You have to get your points, you have to win your games and you have to get the job done. You have to go into every game with the expectation that it’s going to be difficult, that it will challenge you to the limits.

“That’s our approach: take it seriously every time you go out onto the field, very seriously, and be very awake and then we’ll see how it runs out through those 10 [final round] games. I told the players it’s all about alertness, commitment and determination. The way they train, the way they presented themselves already this morning, it looks like they are ready.”

(MORE: How many points will it take to get to Brazil)

(MORE:  U.S. history in Honduras? Successful – but surprisingly brief)

(MORE: Massive opportunity for U.S. defender Timmy Chandler)

(MORE: Jurgen Klinsmann addresses the Benny Feilhaber situation)

Latest Posts
  1. Premier League Sunday preview: Can Spurs, Man City find hope versus Newcastle, West Ham?

    Apr 18, 2015, 4:42 PM EDT

    A pair of Premier League matches are ready for your Sunday viewing pleasure, and take note that one features a different broadcast channel.

  2. Bundesliga wrap: BVB, Bayern, Bayer win; USMNT players split points

    Apr 18, 2015, 4:14 PM EDT

    FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-FRANKFURT-MOENCHENGLADBACH Getty Images

    Seventy-seven percent of this weekend’s Bundesliga results are in the books, and Germany is still waiting for its first upset.

  3. VIDEO: Rooney says Manchester United was unlucky, crowns Chelsea champion

    Apr 18, 2015, 3:56 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney felt his team did enough to top Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, but the score line says otherwise.

  4. Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win vs. Manchester United

    Apr 18, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT

    Shaw's superb display caught the eye. Getty Images

    Here’s what we learned from Chelsea’s narrow win over United.

  5. Arsenal 2-1 Reading: Alexis helps Gunners clinch FA Cup final berth

    Apr 18, 2015, 2:13 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Reading - FA Cup Semi-Final Getty Images

    Arsenal had 71 percent possession as late as the 80th minute, but the score remained deadlocked at one.

  6. VIDEO: Pearson thrilled with Leicester win, but can’t let foot off gas

    Apr 18, 2015, 1:25 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Hear what the Foxes’ boss had to say about Leicester’s big win.

  7. Crystal Palace 0-2 West Bromwich Albion: Morrison, Gardner lead Baggies (video)

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:59 AM EDT

    Crystal Palace v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    Palace’s table charge is momentarily halted, as Alan Pardew’s boys sit 11th with 42 points.

  8. Everton 1-0 Burnley: Mirallas’ early strike sees off 10-man Clarets (video)

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:57 AM EDT

    Toffees five unbeaten, send Clarets bottom of the table.

  9. Leicester City 2-0 Swansea City: Pearson’s Foxes dominant in massive win (video)

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:53 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Leicester is even with 17th place Hull on points and a single point behind Sunderland, with a match in hand on both.

  10. WATCH: Craig Gardner strikes a beautiful curler to double West Brom’s lead

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:40 AM EDT

    Crystal Palace v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    James Morrison had scored in the second minute for the Baggies’ first tally.

  11. Watch Live: Chelsea vs. Manchester United (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:34 AM EDT

    Rooney, pictured above running away from Chelsea's Eden Hazard, has played in two of United's three Premier League games this season, picking up two assists in the team's opening day weekend win at Swansea City. Starting his 10th season at the club, Rooney has 141 league goals in 280 Manchester United appearances. Getty Images

    It’s a big one, folks, with the two of the Premier League’s best tangling at Stamford Bridge.

  12. Online fan outrage gets 10-year-old removed from Arsenal vs. Reading pregame

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:17 AM EDT

    Arsenal v Reading - FA Cup Semi-Final Getty Images

    The FA has switched things around and will still give the kid a chance to walk onto the Wembley pitch before an upcoming England match.

  13. LIVE – Premier League, at the half: All four games 1-0; Foxes lead, Burnley sees red

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:49 AM EDT

    Crystal Palace v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    Set piece goals are the name of a pair of early games, as four Premier League matches dot the weekend landscape. Live stream link inside.

  14. Watch Live: Leicester City vs. Swansea City (Lineups, Live Stream)

    Apr 18, 2015, 9:31 AM EDT

    Swansea City v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Bafetimbi Gomis is out for Swansea City, putting more focus on Ki Sung-yeung and Gylfi Sigurdsson.

  15. Watch Live: Crystal Palace vs. West Bromwich Albion (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Apr 18, 2015, 9:24 AM EDT

    With the Eagles embroiled in the relegation battle, Ledley believes his side can stay up and kick on in the PL next season. Getty Images

    Crystal Palace has been humming, with Yannick Bolasie coming off a hat trick for the Eagles.

Featured video

PST Extra: Previewing Chelsea-Man United