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Plenty left to prove as U.S. prepares to face Honduras

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Sports,Craig Stouffer

Seek to end road woes in trip to Honduras

There may be no greater separation between what exists on paper and reality than the final round of World Cup qualifying in North and Central America.

There is little doubt that the United States should qualify for the 2014 tournament in Brazil, needing only to finish only in the top three of a six-team group that includes Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Panama. The fourth place team will have only to survive a playoff against a team from the Oceania region.

But none of the 10 games the U.S. will play between February and October can be measured by the comparative strengths of the rosters alone, especially on the road. After a tepid performance away from home in the previous round, all eyes are on coach Jurgen Klinsmann to see if he can start his team off on the right foot Wednesday against Honduras in San Pedro Sula.

Up next
U.S. at Honduras
When » Wednesday, 4 p.m.
Where » Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano, San Pedro Sula, Honduras
TV » beIN Sport

"I will always welcome these opportunities, these matches, because that's what it's all about: going to these places that are not your home, cozy environment and proving a point," Klinsmann said during a conference call Monday. "The players are ready for that."

Klinsmann barely earned a passing grade in his first meaningful road games at the helm last year. While the U.S. earned historic friendly wins at Mexico and Italy in 2012, they lost for the first time in Jamaica in qualifying and struggled to a 1-1 tie in Guatemala.

The U.S. has won nine of its last 10 games against Honduras and hasn't lost in a qualifier since a 3-2 defeat at an overflowing RFK Stadium in 2001. Landon Donovan scored in each of two victories over the Catrachos during the final round of 2010 World Cup qualification, but his current sabbatical leaves the team searching for leadership from potentially travel-weary European-based players like Clint Dempsey (Tottenham) and Michael Bradley (AS Roma). A primarily domestic roster played Canada to a dismal 0-0 tie last week in the U.S. team's first fixture of the year.

"They've got to compensate because regardless, Donovan is a quality player," said former U.S. captain and Sirius/XM radio host John Harkes. "You can't put all the expectations on Clint to be your winner. You can't put all the stress on Clint to make a change in the game all the time because you need other players to step up."

A national holiday has been proclaimed in Honduras so locals can watch the game, and kickoff is timed to match the peak heat and humidity of the day.

"There is no easy way, not for Mexico, not for the United States, not for anybody," Klinsmann said. "You have to get your points, you have to win your games and you have to get the job done. You have to go into every game with the expectation that it's going to be difficult, that it will challenge you to the limits."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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