US mauls Honduras in must-win World Cup qualifier

US mauls Honduras in must-win World Cup qualifier

USA national team coach Bruce Arena has some tough decisions to make with regards to his starting lineup for Friday's crucial World Cup qualifier against Honduras, but a week of training should help make things more clear. New boss Bruce Arena will be desperate to get the team on track in what is his first competitive game in charge since his November reappointment.

Clint Dempsey marked his return to the national team with a stunning hat-trick, while Sebastian Lletget, Michael Bradley and Christian Pulisic also got in on the scoring act to pace a thoroughly dominant performance.

Clint Dempsey, center, training with the USA national team.

The U.S. are now last in the qualifying table after a pair of November defeats against Mexico and Costa Rica, which led to the firing of then-manager Jurgen Klinsmann.

In just three league games for Houston, forwards Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto have torn into opposing penalty areas often enough to remind observers of what the Honduran attack is capable of. The US started the Hexagonal with a 2-1 defeat at home against Mexico, and then were convincingly beaten 4-0 by Costa Rica away.

The victory lifted the USA into a tie with Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago with 3 points, behind Mexico (7 points) and Costa Rica (6 points).

Those results dampened the spirits within U.S. Soccer, but after the firing of coach Jurgen Klinsmann and the re-hire of Bruce Arena, some life has been breathed into the program.

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The countries last met in July 2014 in the opening game of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

There was vast pressure on the win Friday.

The United States men's soccer team is in an unfamiliar position. Only one of those games, a qualification match during the last cycle, did the U.S. lose.

The U.S. should field a more attacking lineup at home to pierce through the Honduras defense. Mexico are on fire at the moment and Costa Rica are right behind them.

A win for the US would significantly lessen the pressure the team is feeling. No team has ever reached a World Cup after failing to record a point in their first three Hex matches. "This is kind of a down period where we need to pick up some points".

Bradley isn't getting fancy when it comes to what the USA group must do. No such luck: Kevin Molino, who plays in MLS for Minnesota United, scored just before halftime to give the Trinidadians (1-2-0) a 1-0 triumph. Oscar Boniek García fired just wide of Howard's goal in the 52 minute and what looked like the go-ahead goal was waved off when Carlo Costly was judged to be offside. Villafana was on the left. But in front of their home crowd in an important game, there's a chance to show improvements have been made. If they are going to extend that streak it begins with one of their most pivotal games on Friday. The last two meetings, both on USA ground during the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, were 1-1 draws. The U.S. team, which opened the day last in the six-team CONCACAF hexagonal group, is up to fourth. Anything less would carry anxiety into the next set of games in June.

I understand why coaches cringe every time they hear someone in the media draw a comparison between a young, up and coming player to a well decorated legend. The last qualifier between the teams at Azteca, four years ago Saturday, was a 0-0 tie, but any result other than a loss would be a surprise. Honduras would love to steal a point on the road as they try to hang around the top three in the Hex. That match will take place at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, live at 9 p.m. CT on beIN SPORTS, Telemundo and NBC Universo.