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US seek to extend CONCACAF lead
Published : 17 Jun 2013 00:47:03Rss feed
US coach Jurgen Klinsmann wants his players to keep the pedal down Tuesday when they host Honduras in a 2014 World Cup qualifier, a week after a win over Panama shot them to the top of the regional table.
"This game against Honduras is a big, big game," Klinsmann said. "For me it's almost a six-pointer. You want to win this game badly."
Jozy Altidore scored for the third time in three matches for the US and Eddie Johnson grabbed the insurance goal in a crisp 2-0 victory over Panama in Seattle last Tuesday.
The victory sent the USA to the top of the six-nation final qualifying round in North and Central America and the Caribbean with 10 points.
"We're in a very good position, but you're only as good as the next game," Klinsmann insisted.
Costa Rica, who host Panama on Tuesday, are on eight points -- alongside Mexico after holding the Mexicans to a scoreless draw at Azteca stadium last week.
Honduras, meanwhile, are fourth on seven points after a 2-0 victory over Jamaica, whose dismal campaign has yet to produce a victory and saw coach Theodore Whitmore resign under pressure shortly after the latest defeat.
The top three teams in the region advance directly to next year's World Cup finals in Brazil, while the fourth-placed team plays New Zealand for a berth.
Mexico will be hoping a shift away from qualifying for Confederations Cup action in Brazil will help them kick-start their sputtering attack.
At their once-feared Estadio Azteca they have failed to score in three home qualifiers in the final round. The 14-time World Cup qualifiers -- long the powers of the region -- have gone more than 250 minutes without a goal at home.
"This hexagonal group proves how difficult it is and how balanced North and Central America is now in soccer terms," Klinsmann said.
"The Central American countries caught up. They challenge Mexico, they challenge us. There is no easy game at all anymore because teams are physically very strong, they keep the pace high with you, they keep the rhythm and they are tactically very well organized.
"You don't get many goal-scoring opportunities like in a club environment. Say Jozy gets four or five chances with Alkmaar in his club games, if he's lucky he gets one or two chances with us and he knows he has to put that one in. This is really the big lesson, and this is where I think Mexico right now really struggles."
The United States were slow out of the blocks in the group, starting with a 2-1 loss to Honduras in San Pedro Sula.
"I think it was an important experience that we had in Honduras. In our first game we got the loss, and they had the goal of the century with the bicycle kick," Klinsmann said.
In their last qualifier before September, Klinsmann added, it's especially important to expunge that memory.
"That loss remains in your stomach," he said. "I still have it there and I think it's really important to get these three points. Our European players just finishing up their seasons want to finish on a high note. You don't want to go on vacation without the best results. The players in MLS or Mexico who are still in a full run want to continue that stretch now."
However, they'll face a Honduras team desperate for every point they can get.
"From now on, every game is going to be a final," Celtic defender Emilio Izaguirre told FIFA.com. "There's nothing left to calculate. We have five games to go and we need to take as many points as possible."
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