This summer's barrage of soccer continues as the United States will play Honduras in the opening Gold Cup match for both sides. The USMNT is coming into this one on a high, having recently won crazy games over the Netherlands and Germany on European soil while most recently thumping Guatemala 4-0. Honduras on the other hand has been struggling for about a year, but they recently held Mexico to a scoreless draw.
This being CONCACAF, things are never as easy as it seems like it should be. Organizers have done no one any favors by scheduling mid-July matches in Texas, for example. Even in a more favorable climate, Honduras has a long history of playing close games against the US that are often turned by one great moment of skill or one big mistake at the back. The Americans will have more of the ball, but they'll be trying to break down a team committed to defending in numbers and playing physically. Furthermore, in Andy Najar they have a scheme-breaking player who poses a huge match-up issue for the US at left back.
USMNT Projected Starting 11: In Gold Cups past, I'd expect a mixed team here due to a weaker opponent. However, Group A features half of the last Hexagonal field, so look for Jurgen Klinsmann to send out a strong team to prevent any slip-ups. I suspect we'll see the diamond return for this one, which means a team featuring Brad Guzan in goal behind a back four of Timmy Chandler, Ventura Alvarado, John Brooks, and Fabian Johnson. Kyle Beckerman will play at the bottom of the midfield, supporting DeAndre Yedlin, Michael Bradley, and Mix Diskerud. Up front, look for Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore to pair up.
Match previews: Rob Usry talked about the importance of good wide play at Stars and Stripes FC, while MLSsoccer's Matt Doyle offers up this scouting report on Honduras. USsoccer.com has five things to say about this game, including a note that the USMNT has won every single Gold Cup opener they've ever played.
What are you drinking: A muggy day like today demands gin. I'm going with a Tanqueray and tonic.
Prediction: Games against Honduras are always tough for the US, but they usually come out on top. That's what I expect here. The game will be very sluggish in the early going, but I think Dempsey opens the scoring. Honduras will have to open up as the game goes on, and I think Gyasi Zardes will take advantage of the space to finish off a goal on the counter. 2-0 USMNT.
This is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.