SALT LAKE CITY -- On the surface, it seems that Honduras is more than just depleted for its game against the USA Tuesday, it's decimated.
It isn't just the number of players missing, it's the quality. Vital performers Boniek Garcia and Maynor Figueroa are injured, while hulking defender Victor Bernardez and defensive midfielder Luis Garrido are suspended.
If the forced absences weren't enough, forward Jerry Bengtson has left the team after a spat with manager Luis Fernando Suárez, following the coach's decision to bench the New England Revolution forward in the team's last qualifier against Jamaica.
While the U.S. may be quietly doing fist pumps and celebrating its good fortune, the team is understandably taking a more muted approach in public.
"It won't impact how we approach it at all," U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley told reporters before training Monday. "It's still Honduras and it's still 90 minutes to go out and try to win the game. As far as who plays for them, who doesn't, who's injured, who ends up being able to play, it doesn't change anything for us."
With the key absences, the Catrachos will be heavily reliant on some familiar faces to many U.S. national team members. Defender Matt Besler was a teammate of Roger Espinoza at Sporting Kansas City for four seasons before Espinoza was sold to Wigan.
"I have great things to say about Roger, I think he's a really good player," Besler said. "I think he's got a terrific engine and he's a valuable member of that team. He's a guy we're going to have to keep an eye on and make sure that we match his intensity."
Another vital player for Honduras on Tuesday will be winger Mario Martinez, who could be directly matched up against his club teammate in Seattle, Brad Evans, who has started the USA's last three games at right back.
"I've seen the things that he can do day in and day out in Seattle and there are some things that are just world class," Evans told a media roundtable Sunday. "He's a very, very good player with his left foot, he's extremely tricky, and you never know if he's going to cut it back.
"He's one of those guys that doesn't really have a right foot but when he does cut it back, he's skilled enough to hit it with the outside of his left boot."
In addition to Espinoza and Martinez, San Jose Earthquakes winger Marvin Chavez could be in line for a start on Tuesday, adding another well-known opponent for many of the U.S. players.
Coming off a 2-1 loss in Honduras in February, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is aware of the challenge the Central Americans will pose, regardless of the 11 players on the field.
"We have a lot of respect for Honduras because that's just the way it has to be. We had that experience in February and we expect them to be very physical," Klinsmann said.
"There will be a lot of battles on the field all over the place but we want to play our game, we want to be dominant hopefully on the field and take care of things the sooner the better. But we know it's going to be a hell of a lot of work."
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