Thursday, July 23, 2009

ATH: USA v Honduras

Scouting Report: Honduras - Semifinals

What has changed since our Group Stage scouting report on Honduras? Well, the 'beat the United States' prediction took a bit of a hit. The United States turned a questionable first-half into a game winning second, beating Honduras 2-0 on July 8th on their way to winning Group B.

Honduras got a 4-0 win in their final Group B game against Grenada, but the United States and Haiti had already shown that Grenada was over-matched in this tournament. Honduras' quarterfinal win over Canada ended with Canada feeling they were the victim of bad officiating rather than a breathtaking show of skill from Honduras. That was helped by Honduras goal scorer Walter Martinez telling the media after the game that he didn't think it was a penalty either.

"All referees make mistakes and are human," he said. "I didn't think it was a penalty, but I was able to score."

Of concern with their second game against the United States in the 2009 Gold Cup should be scoring from the run of play. It's one thing to run up the score against Grenada, but Honduras hasn't had the kind of game that stresses confidence in their attacking players. They have looked dangerous, but that hasn't been reflected on the scoreboard.

Honduras coach Reinaldo Rueda isn't making any predictions this time around. In fact, he has been all but silent about his plans for his squad's second chance against the United States. What he is stressing is an understanding that the US players are treating these games as their best chance at proving their worth for World Cup Qualifying and beyond. "It doesn't make it any easier for us," he said on Wednesday.

What should be expected is more of the same from Honduras. Though Rueda has talked about different looks tailored to each opponent, their attack, and to a large extent their game, runs through Carlos Costly. Exemplifying the issues with the Honduras attack, he has yet to get a goal in this tournament. For that to change later tonight, he's going to have to allow the attack to develop rather than rushing forward.

The United States have shown over their games that they aren't afraid to defend in their box. This means needing to beat more than one player to create quality chances. Honduras hasn't been doing enough of that, and without a revamp of their attacking mentality, that's not likely to change.

On the other end of the field, Donis Escober showed the first time around against the US that he won't be beaten easily. Santino Quaranta's goal was so well hit it's doubtful anybody stops it. Brian Ching's was a result of a Steve Cherundolo pass that opened up the Honduran defense.

Canada spent a lot of time in the second-half trying to get shots off in the Honduran box, and a combination of bad selection, bad luck, and good goalkeeping kept them out. For all of Canada's complaints about the officiating, there was the feeling that their best potential result was going to be carrying a scoreless draw past 90 minutes.

Building off of Escobar, there's the same feeling that Honduras has brought into every game except Grenada. Low scoring, trying to breakup plays before they reach their defensive third, and stalling on a lead if they get one. No surprises and not a lot of offense, but it's gotten them to the semifinal stage.

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