The road to Rio continues tonight when the U.S. Men's National Team takes on Honduras in the sixth qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup. After falling to Honduras back in February, the United States has gone 3-0-1 in its next four qualifying matches to lead the Hexagonal standings at the halfway point.
With his team on top of the CONCACAF standings, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann can use tonight's game to get a closer look at some of his players who are fighting for playing time on what is becoming a very deep United States squad.
No player has more to prove tonight than Edgar Castillo. With starting left back DaMarcus Beasley suspended for tonight's game, Castillo could see extended playing time.
Starting goalkeeper Tim Howard told ESPN's Jeff Carlisle that Castillo adds a physical presence on the defense end.
[Castillo] is a different kind of left back than what we’re used to. He bites at the ball a lot. For a guy his size, he really likes to tackle, to mix it up.He’s not afraid of that.
Obviously, he’s good getting forward, he enjoys that part of it ... But I like the fact that for his size he really likes to tackle and get into guys, and put pressure on the attackers.
It is Castillo's attacking nature that could make or break his future with the U.S. National Team. If he plays too aggressive, Honduras has firepower up front to counter-attack. But Honduras has struggled on defense, and Castillo's play could spark runs for the U.S. offense.
Castillo will need a strong performance to earn increased playing time on what is becoming a very talented team.
After recording a goal in last Tuesday's victory over Panama, Eddie Johnson deserves another start for the U.S. side tonight.
Johnson added offensive depth to a team that has relied heavily on Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. With the return of midfielders Graham Zusi and Jermaine Jones for tonight's match, Johnson will likely be on the sidelines as the team shifts to a more traditional alignment, but the 29-year-old earned more playing time and deserves another start.
Omar Gonzalez / Matt Besler
Gonzalez and Besler have become the anchors of the United States defense, with the team going 3-0-2 with three shutouts in the five games they have started together.
Klinsmann told Seth Vertelney of the Sporting News that though there will be growing pains, he likes the pairing at center back.
There will be a bad game here and there, there will be a mistake, but the important thing is that we coaches see the potential in certain players and we can see where they can be one day.
The two young defenders have shown a lot already, but leading the United States to victory tonight will solidify them as the club's starting center backs heading into the 2014 World Cup.