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U.S. to face Honduras in first match of World Cup Qualifying Hex

Soccer Columnist

Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08

After successfully topping their third round group for World Cup Qualification the USMNT (United States Men’s National Team) has just one final hurdle to navigate between them and the 2014 FIFA World Cup, a six-team double round robin qualification stage known affectionately as 'The Hex'.

CONCACAF’s (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Associations of Football) fourth and final round of World Cup qualification is a six-team tournament, in which each team plays every other team home and away. This round of qualification is called the 'Hexagonal' or just 'The Hex' because of the six teams taking part.

For the USMNT, the Hex, and particularly away matches have always proved a difficult task but a perfect 4/4 all time record in qualification from the Hex shows it’s not an impossible one.

This time around qualification begins in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Wed. at 4 p.m. and ends in Panama City, Panama, on October 15th. In between the USMNT will also face Costa Rica, Jamaica and their bitter rival Mexico, against whom they have scored just one away goal all time in World Cup qualifiers.

While many faces for the USMNT remain the same from four years ago, Tim Howard is still between the sticks, Captain Carlos Bocanegra will continue to marshal the back four, Michael Bradley will run the match from the central midfield and Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore will try to score the goals; two key faces have changed.

US soccer poster boy and USMNT playmaker Landon Donovan has been absent from the USMNT since August 15th due to somewhat of a mid-life crisis.

In Oct. of 2012, Donovan said that he needed to take a break from his soccer career due to mental and physical exhaustion, abstaining himself from future selection for the USMNT. With no Donovan, the USMNT has lost its creative lynchpin for the last decade and will look to Graham Zusi, Sacha Kljestan, Eddie Johnson and José Francisco Torres not to replace his creativity but to try to minimize his absence. Donovan’s absence will also make head coach Jürgen Klinsmann’s first Hex, that much more difficult.

Klinsmann, who’s navigating his first World Cup qualification process as a Head Coach was appointed in July of 2011 after Bob Bradley failed to win the CONCACAF Goal Cup earlier that month.

In his first ever WCQ (World Cup Qualifier) as Head Coach, the USMNT barley squeaked by Antigua and Barbuda a nation that has a population equivalent to Danbury, Connecticut, 3-1. Following the win, the USMNT earned a 1-1 draw in Guatemala, then lost 2-1 in Jamaica.

Earning four points in their first three matches the USMNT were on the verge of not qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. But Klinsmann maximized home field advantage in the final three matches to secure nine points and advance the USMNT to the Hex.

Klinsmann is now staring down an extremely tough Hex qualification process with three of the first four matches taking place away from home, mirroring third round qualification. Unlike in the third round Klinsmann knows he cannot afford to get going half way through qualification with the others teams being much stronger than Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala.

 

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