SALT LAKE CITY -- In the midst of one of the United States' best stretches since he took over, Jurgen Klinsmann has a message for his team. Defender Brad Evans summed it up thusly:
"Do you want to sit on an empty stomach for three months, or do you want to ride out on a high note?"
That's the challenge that will face the U.S. national team when it takes the field against Honduras on Tuesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Yanks are sitting pretty atop the Hexagonal, but all the good vibes accumulated over the past two weeks could be erased with one poor performance.
After a stuttering start to the Hex at Honduras, the United States has collected 10 of a possible 12 points from four matches to open up a two-point advantage at the top of the group.
It's a run that has the team's confidence soaring, but following the Honduras match, the USA won't play another Hexagonal match until it visits Costa Rica on Sept. 6. An extended break following anything less than three points at home against a depleted Honduras team would certainly put a damper on an otherwise successful run of games.
"The confidence is high, but there's also a serious feel about the team right now, and that starts with Jurgen and the rest of the staff," defender Matt Besler told reporters.
"They've really tried to push on us the last couple days of finishing this trip out on the right note. Some of the guys, most of them, are going on vacation after this. They get their three or four week break and we want to make sure that everyone leaves on the right note, getting the nine points."
The United States should smell blood, as Honduras comes into the match missing a number of key pieces: Boniek Garcia and Maynor Figueroa are injured, Victor Bernardez and Luis Garrido are suspended, and Jerry Bengtson left the team after a spat with coach Luis Fernando Suárez over not starting the team's last game against Jamaica.
"You notice the big names that might not be there but sometimes that's more dangerous, when you plug in guys that are kind of on the fringe and they're really fighting for a spot," Evans said. "You bring in new guys that are hungry and that want to impress the coach, it's almost a little more dangerous."
Still, with momentum to spare and a raucous home crowd behind them, Klinsmann's men know that anything other than three points will be a major disappointment.
"One thing we have to guard against is complacency," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "Like 'Oh we've got the six points, so it's okay if we draw,' that type of thing. You don't want that. You want to have that same urgency we had in Jamaica and those same jitters, thinking 'We've got to get some points here.' We want to have that here at home."