It’s been kind of a slow month for the Philadelphia Union, who are in the middle of an 18-day stretch without a league game.
But there’s still been a lot of soccer to watch with the US national team gearing up to play their third World Cup qualifier in the past 12 days tonight with a key tilt against Honduras tonight (ESPN, 9 p.m.).
Why should you bother watching the Americans play a year before the World Cup begins? There are a lot of reasons but here are five big ones:
1. National pride: The World Cup is incredible but there still can be plenty of fanfare for CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers. For proof, all you needed to do was watch last Tuesday’s game in soccer-crazed Seattle when more than 40,000 fans packed into CenturyLink Field and created some incredible tifo. Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that the US played probably their best game under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, beating Panama 2-0 and rising to the top of the Hexagonal group. Here are the juicy highlights:
2. Michael Bradley, the maestro: You could argue that Clint Dempsey is the best player on the national team or that Tim Howard is the most valuable. But nobody is playing at a higher level right now than Michael Bradley. Against Panama, the 25-year-old central midfielder controlled the game perfectly, completing 78 of the 87 passes he attempted and seemingly always making the right one. As Bradley goes, so go the Americans. And it’s fun to watch.
3. Altidore and the offense: Over the past few years, there have been questions as to when supremely talented striker Jozy Altidore would figure it all out. The answer could be right now. The 23-year-old had scored in three straight games, sparking an offensive surge for the Americans, who have netted 10 goals in the past four games as a team. Considering Altidore hadn’t scored in a US uniform for two years before that, his recent outburst has been one of the most promising things to come out of these recent qualifiers. Can he keep it going tonight?
4. Revenge: It can be a clichéd and overused term in sports but it’s still a tried-and-true American value. In February, the US opened Hexagonal play with an ugly 2-1 loss at Honduras, with many people questioning Klinsmann's tactics at the time. Since then, however, the Americans have gone 3-0-1 in World Cup qualifiers, allowing just one goal in that span. A win tonight would not only bring them closer to qualifying for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil but also prove they’re a lot better than they were when they last played Honduras. Oh, and they’d get some revenge too.
5. No more big games until September: Tonight’s contest marks the Americans’ last World Cup qualifier until Sept. 6 when they travel to Costa Rica to begin a final stretch of games. The best way to deal with that kind of layoff: securing a perfect nine points during June qualifying and inching even closer to the spectacle that will be Brazil 2014.