Two members of the Five Stripes were in action for their national teams Thursday in South America. Miguel Almiron was an instrumental part of Paraguay’s 2-1 win over Ecuador to keep its hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup alive. He played the full 90 minutes and started the sequence that led to the winning goal. Pundits in Paraguay had Almiron among their best players in the match.
Things did not go so well for Josef Martinez in Venezuela. La Vinotinto lost a 2-0 lead to Peru and had to settle for a 2-2 draw. Martinez was injured on a scoring chance early in the second half. It appeared that he pulled a muscle in his left leg after attempting a shot on the wet, chopped up field.
Atlanta United technical director Carlos Bocanegra told John and Hugh this morning that Martinez will be returning to Atlanta for a MRI tomorrow. He will not be playing for Venezuela on Tuesday against Chile.
Carlos Carmona was on the bench for Chile last night in its 1-0 loss in Argentina, but he did not enter the match.
Kenwyne Jones will be in action Friday for Trinidad and Tobago as the Soca Wariors try to improve their placement in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying campaign. Trinidad and Tobago is currently in fifth place out of six and hosts third place Panama in Port of Spain tonight.
Also looking to improve its standing is the United States, who is currently in the basement of the final round of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF. The Stars and Stripes will be attempting to do what only Trinidad and Tobago has done before, qualify for the World Cup from this region after losing its first two games in the final round. That journey starts Friday at 10:50 p.m. ET in San Jose, California as the U.S. hosts Honduras.
Los Catrachos are currently in fourth place and are attempting to qualify for their third straight World Cup. The U.S. is trying to maintain its streak of appearing in every World Cup since 1990. Bruce Arena will be making his coaching debut in this cycle, replacing Jurgen Klinsmann after the losses to Mexico and Costa Rica in November resulted in his dismissal.
Arena guided the U.S. through two successful World Cup qualifying campaigns for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. However, this is a much improved CONCACAF that he faces in 2017 and the challenge is greatly increased by the two-game hole that was dug last November. Honduras will not be a pushover tonight in San Jose.
Alberth Elis, Boniek Garcia and Romell Quioto are a big part of the Houston Dynamo’s renaissance this season. Roger Espinoza is a stalwart for Sporting Kansas City in the midfield. Andy Najar, product of a D.C. United and now featuring for Anderlecht in Belgium, can feature at either right back or right wing. This is a team that has a great deal of experience and speed. The U.S. will have to be careful to not allow them to break out on the counterattack because there is no one who can run with Elis and Quioto.
The U.S. will have to dominate on set pieces due to size advantages, create opportunities through players like Christian Pulisic, and lean on the veteran leadership of Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley. The U.S. roster is more talented and needs to demonstrate that with a strong performance tonight in San Jose.
While a loss would not eliminate the U.S. from contention for the 2018 World Cup, it would force them to make a comeback that has never been seen in this region. It would eliminate all margin for error and would force the team to hope for other results to go their way. A win tonight gives the U.S. more control over its destiny and is a must to right the ship.