October 10, 2009
By Michael Lewis
A WIN AND THEY'RE IN
U.S. could reach 6th straight WC tonight
|Landon Donovan "I think I speak for the guys who were in Germany in 2006. This would be an opportunity to have redemption in some ways to get to the World Cup and do better than we did the last time."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras -- Everyone has a different motivation as to why they want to reach the World Cup.
Landon Donovan's spark goes back three years -- to the Americans' disappointing and sometimes embarrassing performance at the 2006 competition in Germamy.
"I think I speak for the guys who were in Germany in 2006," he said Friday. "This would be an opportunity to have redemption in some ways to get to the World Cup and do better than we did the last time. That's certainly been part of my motivation along the way.
"This is obviously biggest step to getting there."
The United States (5-2-1, 16 points), which leads the CONCACAF final round hexagonal, can clinch a berth in their sixth consecutive World Cup with a victory over Honduras (4-2-1, 13) tonight (no TV, 10 p.m.). That will be much easier said than done because Central America has never been an easy place for the U.S. to play.
Add the fact that Honduras is a perfect 8-0-0 at home during this qualifying campaign and the U.S. has underachieved in Central America and Mexico during this cycle, and it could be an uphill battle.
"In a perfect world, we do it tomorrow," Donovan said.
The U.S. also can book a spot in South Africa if they tie and Costa Rica (4-4-0, 12) draws and loses to Trinidad & Tobago. If the Costa Ricans fall, the U.S. would be in as well.
If the Americans fail to clinch, they will have another opportunity against Costa Rica in Washington, D.C. Wednesday. The U.S. is guaranteed to finish in the top four, so if they fail to qualify in those two games, they could wind up playing the fifth-place team from South America in a special playoff next month. But no one is talking about that option.
The U.S. traditionally hasn't fared well in Central America, where the fans can be so passionate.
"You can feel the air," Donovan said. "It's probably hard to walk in that, much less run around in it. The unique thing is . . . the passion of everyone. In Europe, you'll get a section of the stadium that's passionate, maybe three, four, five, 10,000 people. But here, it's going to be 25,000-30,000, whatever the stadium holds. Incredibly passionate people. You can feel the difference in the energy."
U.S. coach Bob Bradley might have to do some juggling of players who have yellow cards. Eight players, including defender Carlos Bocanegra, midfielders Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber and Donovan and forward Jozy Altidore have cards. If they get another, they would miss the Costa Rica match.
Bradley indicated he would have to figure out whether he would sit Clark or Feilhaber, so one would be available next week.