CONCACAF U20: USMNT U-20s face dangerous Honduras side with place in Concacaf final on the line

With Under-20 World Cup qualification already secured, the U.S. Under-20 national team faces a familiar foe with a place in the final up for grabs.   The U.S. Under-20 men's national team has dominated all six opponents it has faced in the Concacaf Championships so far, outscoring them 43-2, but none of the earlier blowouts will matter much if the Americans can't clear their toughest hurdle to date. 

Up next on Monday night is a Honduras side the U.S. team knows well, having split a pair of friendlies against the Catrachos in May in Honduras. The Central Americans posted a 3-1 victory in the first meeting, after an early U.S. red card, while the Americans won the second match, played two days later. 

It has been six months since those meetings, and the teams are different now than they were then. One thing the two sides have in common is they enter Monday's clash undefeated after dominating the competition in the first round of the Concacaf Championships. 

"It's going to be a good game because we have history with them," U.S. midfielder Alex Mendez told. "We played them in Honduras and unluckily we didn't get the result we wanted in the first game, but the second game we came out and we win. This game they're not just going to roll over for us, so it'll be a good game." 

The United States has already secured its place in the 2019 Under-20 World Cup by virtue of its 4-0 win against Costa Rica on Friday, but a win or draw against Honduras would send the American to Wednesday's CONCACAF Championship final, likely against Mexico. 

Honduras can secure its own place in the Under-20 World Cup with a draw, or a loss by fewer than four goals, but can thwart the U.S. team's chance to repeat as Concacaf Champions by beating the Americans. 

A tightly-contested match seems likely in this clash of familiar foes, the same two teams that played in the 2017 Under-20 Concacaf final, a final the Americans won in a penalty shootout.  
Honduras settled for a 1-1 draw with Costa Rica last Friday, but looked like the better team before a first-half red card. The Honduran attack boasts several dangerous offensive weapons, including playmaker Carlos Mejia, striker Josue Villafranca and winger Cristian Calix. 

"I think the challenge with Honduras is just going to be the physicality," U.S. defender Chris Gloster told. "Obviously it's going to be a fight, because they're also fighting for a World Cup spot. We played them in Under-17 qualifying and I remember some of these players that are with them right now. Our mentality has to be staying focused defensively, because they're going to try and come at us, but also they don't want to concede, so I think at times they'll want to sit back. 

"Our mentality has to be to keep going at them. After we score one goal, act like it's 0-0 and keep going at them." 

Working in the U.S. team's favor is the fact Honduras will be without first-choice central defender Mariano Alvarez, who is suspended after drawing a red card in last week's draw with Costa Rica. 

The U.S. attack could be without one of its most dangerous attacking weapons in winger Ulysses Llanez, who left Friday's win against Costa Rica with an ankle injury. If Llanez is unable to start, U.S. coach Tab Ramos could turn to Ayo Akinola or Justin Rennicks to fill the starting role.  

The rest of the U.S. lineup should look similar to the one that beat Costa Rica, though Ramos could choose to insert central defender Chris Richards for Matt Real to give the Americans a more athletic center back pairing to deal with Honduras' fast and strong attack. Whoever gets the star will be paired with Philadelphia Union defender Mark McKenzie, who has established himself as the top option in central defense. 

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