PREVIEW: USMNT Wraps Winter World Cup Qualifying In St. Paul, Minn. Against HondurasUSA Looks to Flex Frigid Home-Field Advantage and Continue March Towards Qualification; Kickoff from Allianz Field Set for 7:30 p.m. ET (FS1, Univision, TUDN)
CHICAGO (Jan. 31, 2022) – Currently in second place in the final round of World Cup Qualifying, the U.S. Men’s National Team aims to finish its slate of three winter qualifying matches in seven days on a high note as it takes on Honduras in St. Paul, Minn. After facing freezing conditions in its first two games, forecasts project that the Twin Cities will set a new USMNT record for coldest home kickoff temperature (currently 29 degrees), setting the stage for a memorable match on the road to Qatar 2022.
With just four matches remaining in the Octagonal, Wednesday marks the USA’s penultimate home World Cup qualifier. Kickoff from Allianz Field is set for 7:30 p.m. ET (FS1, Univision, TUDN).
USMNT ROSTER BY POSITION - JANUARY/FEBRUARY WORLD CUP QUALIFYING
GOALKEEPERS (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago
Fire; 0/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 15/0)
DEFENDERS (7): Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 23/1), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 17/2), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 8/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 21/2), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 16/3), DeAndre Yedlin (Unattached; 71/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 24/2)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 47/2), Luca de la Torre (Heracles/NED; 4/0), Sebastian Lletget (New England Revolution; 33/8), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 30/8), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 13/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 30/0)
FORWARDS (8): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 17/5), Paul Arriola (FC Dallas; 43/8), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 6/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 42/10), Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg/GER; 8/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 44/17), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 19/2), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 68/14)
Midfielder Tyler Adams has been diagnosed with a right hamstring injury and defender Chris Richards with a right ankle injury following Sunday’s game at Canada. Both players will miss Wednesday’s match vs. Honduras and are continuing to be evaluated to establish an expected timeline for their return.
USA SCHEDULE - JANUARY/FEBRUARY WORLD CUP QUALIFYING
Thursday, Jan. 27
Lower.com Field; Columbus, Ohio
Sunday, Jan. 30
Tim Hortons Field; Hamilton, Canada
Wednesday, Feb. 2
Allianz Field; St. Paul, Minn.
FS1, Univision, TUDN
TOUGH RESULT UP NORTH
After a strong start to the January/February World Cup qualifying slate in Columbus - a 1-0 victory vs. El Salvador - the U.S. traveled to face Octagonal-leading Canada and fell 2-0 to its northern neighbor. Despite a majority of possession and attacking chances, Canada got on the board early with a tally from Cyle Larin in the seventh minute and the USA wasn’t able to find an equalizer. Samuel Adekugbe netted an insurance goal late in second-half stoppage time as the U.S. fell to Canada in World Cup qualifying for the first time since 1980.
Scheduling changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic set the stage for a special January/February international window and the slate of games has lived up to its frigid fanfare. The kickoff temperature in Columbus, Ohio was 29 degrees, while Hamilton, Canada was a chilly 22 degrees. Forecasts for Wednesday night predict single digits -- which would be the coldest home kickoff temperature in USMNT history.
After Canada selected to host USA-Canada in Ontario, U.S. Soccer doubled down on the arctic conditions and chose to host its two home qualifiers in the midst of the Midwest winter. Groundskeepers in Minnesota are well-prepared for the elements and will have Allianz Field’s playing surface high-quality playable for a match of this caliber.
Throughout the window, the USMNT has embraced the unique home-field advantage afforded by the freezing temperatures and potential for winter weather.
“I want it to be freezing. I want it to be cold,” said USMNT defender Walker Zimmerman. “I want the snow. I want to be a part of something so iconic that I saw and I really remember growing up. And that’s exciting to me. So, I think the guys are ready to embrace it, and it will be a really good environment for us fan-wise as well.”
TO THE TWIN CITIES
Wednesday’s match marks the USMNT’s second visit to Allianz Field, the home of Minnesota United FC that opened in spring 2019. The USA’s debut in St. Paul also marked its first match in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, a 4-0 victory in the opening match of the 2019 Gold Cup vs. Guyana. Current call-ups Paul Arriola and Gyasi Zardes both scored in the game, kicking off the USMNT’s run to the tournament final.
The U.S. Women’s National Team has also played two matches at Allianz Field, a September 2019 friendly vs. Portugal and most recently on October 26, 2021 vs. Korea Republic- legendary forward Carli Lloyd’s farewell game.
COLD WEATHER SAFETY MEASURES
Since announcing St. Paul’s Allianz Field as the venue for USA-Honduras back in November, U.S. Soccer has been preparing additional measures to ensure the safety of players and fans alike. Those additional considerations include providing complimentary hand warmers for all fans in attendance, setting up warming areas and additional medication stations throughout Allianz Field and ensuring hot beverage and food options at concessions stands inside the stadium.
“From the moment we announced the match, we’ve been taking all the necessary steps to ensure our players, staff and fans will be prepared to handle the cold,” said U.S. Soccer Chief Medical Officer George Chiampas. “That preparation is very similar to what we do when we’re preparing for the heat or the altitude when we go away to Mexico or Central America, but in this case we’re talking about cold. We’ve been in coordination with local health officials in the past two months, and we’re implementing countless mitigation measures similar to – if not above – what’s been done around colder sporting events to ensure resources and information are available to make sure everyone has a great experience.”
Click here for a full rundown of the safety measures in place for USA-Honduras.
The USMNT has fielded its four youngest World Cup qualifying line-ups ever through 10 games of the Octagonal, as the XI that took the field against El Salvador on Jan. 27 sporting an average of 23 years, 92 days.
Against Canada, right back Reggie Cannon made his World Cup qualifying debut, becoming the 27th player to earn his first WCQ appearance this cycle. In total, 35 players have now contributed on the road to Qatar. The 27 players are the second-most to make their first WCQ appearance this cycle, breaking a tie with 2006 and 2010 and only trailing 1998 (34 players).
This international window has also seen the return of veteran experience in forward Jordan Morris, who made his first WCQ appearance since Sept. 5, 2017 when he entered the match against El Salvador as a second-half substitute.
COMEBACK VS. LOS CATRACHOS
The USMNT’s road trip to Honduras during its first slate of World Cup qualifying matches in September provided one of the highlights of the Octagonal thus far. Playing in the hostile environs of San Pedro Sula, the USA fell behind 1-0 before forward Ricardo Pepi and a number of highly effective second-half subs sparked the U.S. to a 4-1 victory.
Eighteen-year-old Pepi enjoyed one of the most memorable debuts in recent USMNT history, assisting on two of the goals, netting the eventual game-winner and taking a hard-hit shot to tee up the final tally. Antonee Robinson netted his first career international goal to equalize while fellow current call-ups Brenden Aaronson and Sebastian Lletget also scored. The win marked the USMNT’s second-ever victory after trailing at the half on the road in World Cup qualifying.
HONDURAS ELIMINATED FROM QATAR CONTENTION
Honduras became the first team eliminated from the Octagonal with its loss at home to El Salvador on Sunday. Los Catrachos have had a rough go thus far in World Cup qualifying as the only team yet to win a game through the tournament’s first 10 matches. After a decently strong start to the cycle, drawing Canada and El Salvador on the road and taking the lead on the USA. A draw with Costa Rica in the opening match of the October international window was Honduras’ last result in World Cup qualifying.
The road hasn’t gotten any easier for Honduras during the winter WCQ slate. Playing at home in its first two matches, Honduras fell 2-0 to Canada with the opening tally an own goal and then dropped the second to El Salvador. After those results, Los Catrachos have to endure an enormous weather change from the hot and humid 80s to freezing temperatures in the Twin Cities as well as a very long travel day up to Minnesota.
CONCACAF TO IMPLEMENT VAR FOR REMAINING WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS
Concacaf announced that VAR technology will be implemented for the remaining 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, beginning with the matches on Jan. 27. The technology was used successfully in the 2021 Concacaf Nations League Finals, the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup, and the latter stages of the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.
Teams qualify for the World Cup through their regional confederations, and the USMNT has to run the gauntlet of Concacaf (North America, Central America and the Caribbean) to reach Qatar 2022. For the first time, eight teams are contesting the final round of World Cup qualifying for Concacaf from September to March. The nations play a 14-match round-robin, home and away against each of the seven other teams.
Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the World Cup qualifying schedule has been condensed from 18 months to seven. To accommodate the new schedule, the USMNT has to play three matches during four of the five international windows rather than the usual two matches.
ONLY FORWARD/SOLO PA’LANTE
U.S. Soccer kicked off World Cup qualifying with the launch of “Only Forward,” / “Solo Pa’lante,” the USMNT’s creative campaign focused on uniting fans and the team in a collective journey to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Developed in conjunction with the players, coaches and staff, “Only Forward / Solo Pa’lante” highlights a young, diverse and global-minded Men’s National Team that is humble yet resilient as it looks to tackle the challenge of World Cup Qualifying during the next eight months. As the USMNT continues to gain valuable experience on the road to Qatar, it’s ready to show the world that they are prepared to change the way the world views American soccer.
USA ROSTER NOTES
- Defender Reggie Cannon made his World Cup qualifying debut at Canada, becoming the 27th player to earn their first qualifying cap during this cycle – the second-most of any cycle in team history after 34 qualifying debuts during 1998 qualification.
- Overall, 35 different players have appeared for the USMNT during 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying.
- Tyler Adams started the match at Canada and Brenden Aaronson came off the bench to continue the streak of being the only two U.S. players to appear in all nine World Cup Qualifiers this cycle.
- Veteran forward Jordan Morris came off the bench to make his first World Cup Qualifying appearance since Sept. 5, 2017, at Honduras.
- Players represent clubs in 10 different countries: USA (12), England (3), Spain (2), Belgium (1), Austria (1), France (1), Italy (1), Germany (1), Netherlands (1) and Portugal (1).
- Veteran defender DeAndre Yedlin (71) is the leading cap winner on the roster, followed by Gyasi Zardes (68), Kellyn Acosta (47), and Christian Pulisic (44).
- Tyler Adams and DeAndre Yedlin are carrying cautions. Another yellow card for either will result in a one-match suspension.
- Two players are seeking their WCQ debuts: goalkeepers Sean Johnson and Gabriel Slonina.
- Sixteen players were part of the USMNT’s September qualifying roster when the team played El Salvador, Canada and Honduras.
- Five players have tallied WCQ goals against Honduras. Sebastian Lletget (2), followed by Brenden Aaaronson, Ricardo Pepi, Christian Pulisic and Antonee Robinson (1 each).
- Paul Arriola and Gyasi Zardes each provided goals in the USMNT’s last visit to St. Paul’s Allianz Field, tallying in the 4-0 win against Guyana to open Gold Cup play on June 18, 2019.
- Wednesday marks the 28th meeting all-time between the USA and Honduras with the U.S. holding an 18-4-5 all-time advantage.
- The USA is 7-2-2 vs. Los Catrachos in World Cup qualifying and 3-1-0 at home.
- The USMNT delivered an emphatic win at Honduras when the teams met on Sept. 8, 2021. After falling behind in the first half, the USA roared back with four goals in the second, spearheaded by debutant forward Ricardo Pepi.
- Prior to the September WCQ showdown, the U.S. and Honduras faced off at the Concacaf Nations League Semifinals in Denver in June 2021. Jordan Pefok scored a dramatic 89th-minute goal to boost the USA to a hard-fought 1-0 victory and the Nations League Final vs. Mexico.
- The U.S. punched its ticket to the 2010 World Cup with an exciting, back-and-forth 3-2 victory in San Pedro Sula in October 2009. Forward Conor Casey, who hadn’t scored in his first 14 U.S. appearances, scored twice and set up the USA’s third goal.
- The USMNT’s WCQ history vs. Honduras dates back to March 1965, when the U.S. topped Honduras 1-0 in San Pedro Sula for its first win in Central America. Four days later, the teams drew 1-1 in Tegucigalpa.
HONDURAS ROSTER BY POSITION (Club)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Luis López (Real Espana; 44/0), Roberto Lopez (Vida; 0/0) Edrick Menjívar (Olimpia; 4/0)
DEFENDERS (9): Omar Elvir (Motagua; 5/0), Maynor Figueroa (unattached; 179/5), Franklin Flores (Real Espana; 5/0), Devron Garcia (Real Espana; 0/0), Denil Maldonado (Motagua; 11/0); Wisdom Quaye (Real Espana; 1/0), Diego Rodríguez (Motagua; 14/1), Raul Santos (Motagua; 5/0), Allans Vargas (Real Espana; 8/0)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Bryan Acosta (Colorado Rapids/USA; 56/2), Jorge Alvarez (Olimpia; 9/1), Kervin Arriaga (Marathón; 12/1), Ivan Lopez (Motagua; 3/0), Kevin Lopez (Comunicaciones; 5/0), Alfredo Mejia (Levadiakos; 52/1), Edwin Rodríguez (Olimpia; 14/1), Cristian Sacaza (Honduras Progreso; 0/0)
FORWARDS (6): Alberth Elis (Bordeaux/FRA; 54/12), Anthony Lozano (Cádiz/ESP; 38/9), Brayan Moya (Olimpia; 16/4), Romell Quioto (CF Montreal/CAN; 55/12), Bryan Rochez (Nacional/POR; 15/0), Jonathan Toro (Academica/POR; 15/3)
IN FOCUS: HONDURAS
- Head coach Hernan Dario Gomez called in 26 players for the winter window, 17 from the Honduran first division.
- Motagua has the most players represented (five), followed by Real España and Olimpia with four players apiece.
- Gomez took over Los Catrachos after the October international window, which Honduras finished with two multi-goal losses.
- Since taking the coaching reigns, Gomez has shaken things up. There are 14 new players on the roster that were not on the team when the USA met El Salvador in September.
- Forward Romell Quioto, who performs for CF Montreal (Major League Soccer) and Alberth Elis for Bordeaux (France), are joint team scoring leaders with 12 goals apiece.
- Veteran defender Maynor Figueroa, who is unattached at the present time, has made a Honduran record 180 international appearance. The 38-year-old captain is the oldest player on the squad.
- Los Catrachos have played in the final round of World Cup qualifying during the last three cycles, including four times in the six editions of the Hexagonal.