Matchday 5 of Final Round qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is almost here. While the U.S. gets set to take on Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday in Commerce City, Colo., two other matches will take place around CONCACAF that night.
Check out the standings and previews of the trio of games:
The Matchday 5 meeting between the USA and Trinidad & Tobago is one between two sides whose qualifying campaigns have run parallel at times.
Thursday’s game will mark the third meeting in World Cup Qualifying between the nations on the road to Russia, with the two teams playing to a 0-0 draw in Port of Spain on Nov. 17, 2015, before the USA took an emphatic 4-0 victory against the Soca Warriors on Sept. 6, 2016,to finish top of the Semifinal group.
The USA and T&T also fell to the same fate to open the Final Round of qualification, taking two losses in November that resulted in the replacement of their respective head coaches. Under the direction of new managers – Bruce Arena for the USA and Dennis Lawrence with Trinidad & Tobago – both sides also rebounded during the March World Cup Qualifying dates. The USA racked up four points with a 6-0 win against Honduras and a 1-1 draw in Panama, while Trinidad & Tobago earned their first points with a 1-0 home win against Los Canaleros.
Though things have stabilized, with just six games left neither team has much room for error. With a commanding 11-1-3 edge in World Cup Qualifying and 7-0-1 mark at home, Arena’s side are heavy favorites against the Soca Warriors, but Trinidad & Tobago is pulling out all the stops to try and gain at least a point from the trip. Lawrence’s domestic-based player pool began gathering in Colorado on May 23, with the rest of the team trickling in with the end of their club seasons.
USA - Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler, Michael Bradley, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron
TRI – Andre Boucaud, Joevin Jones, Kenwyne Jones, Kevin Molino, Jan Michael Williams, Jomal Williams, Mekeil Williams
After starting off well during the initial Final Round dates in November, both Costa Rica and Panama earned just one point each from their two matches in March and will look to bounce back with this pivotal encounter at Estadio Nacional in San Jose. The two previous meetings in the Semifinal Round saw Costa Rica dominate affairs, winning 2-1 in Panama on Nov. 17, 2015 before a 3-1 home win on Sept. 2, 2016.
Having played three of their initial four Final Round qualifiers on the road, Costa Rica will look to take advantage of the first of two home matches in June and could create some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack if they take a maximum six points. On the flip side, Panama’s 1-0 victory against Honduras back in November has shown they’re capable of getting a result on the road.
Panama has never won a World Cup qualifier on Costa Rican soil and hasn’t come away with a qualifying victory against Los Ticos since 1992. A point in San Jose would surely be considered a success as Los Canaleros turn their eyes to their Matchday 6 home date with Honduras.
CRC – Joel Campbell, Cristian Gamboa, Ronald Matarrita, Bryan Oviedo, Bryan Ruiz, Jose Salvatierra, Marcos Urena
PAN – Abdiel Arroyo, Edgar Barcenas, Armando Cooper, Harold Cummings, Anibal Godoy, Adolfo Machado, Amir Murillo, Luis Ovalle, Roman Torres
The two teams hold their third meeting of qualifying after both advanced from Semifinal Group A. Mexico earned a 2-0 win in Honduras on Nov. 17, 2015, while Los Catrachos battled to a 0-0 draw at Estadio Azteca in September.
Despite playing three of their first four Hex matches on the road, group-leader Mexico is cruising towards qualification for its seventh-straight World Cup. El Trí has taken 10 of a possible 12 points and has a double-dose of games at Estadio Azteca in June, beginning with their Matchday 5 clash against Honduras.
Having already played three games at home and only one away, Honduras has had the exact opposite schedule from Mexico, with less promising results. Los Catrachos sit in fifth place with just four points from as many games and need all they can get to stay alive in their bid to qualify for a third-straight World Cup. With their Matchday 6 contest also on the road against a Panama side they’re in direct competition with, Jorge Luis Pinto may decide to put more emphasis towards the team’s visit to Estadio Rommel Fernandez on June 13.
Honduras will take solace in the fact that they’ve earned positive results in their last two visits to Azteca – that scoreless draw last September came on the heels of a 2-1 win during the 2013 Hex that went a long way towards lifting Los Catrachos to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. That said, Mexico owns the all-time series, going 18-6-8 overall and 10-5-5 in World Cup Qualifying. They’re also an incredible 16-2-3 under the direction of Juan Carlos Osorio, and with six points from their two June matches would be all but qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
MEX – Oswaldo Alanis, Javier Aquino, Nestor Araujo, Juergen Damm, Jesús Dueñas, Hector Herrera, Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Luis Reyes, Carlos Salcedo, Jorge Torres, Carlos Vela
HON – Bryan Acosta, Ever Alvarado, Brayan Beckeles, Jorge Claros, Wilmer Crisanto, Carlos Discua, Alberth Elis, Donis Escober, Maynor Figuerfoa, Luis Garrido, Eddie Hernandez, Emilio Izaguirre, Mario Martinez, Alfredo Mejia