Top Five Reasons to Tune In for U.S.M.N.T. vs. Honduras Tonight

Top Five Reasons to Tune In for U.S.M.N.T. vs. Honduras Tonight

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.

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Shea Weber's PPG gives Canadiens' 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Shea Weber's PPG gives Canadiens' 5th straight win

NEW YORK -- Shea Weber's power-play goal with 2:57 remaining lifted the Montreal Canadiens to their fifth straight victory, 3-2 over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.

Paul Byron and Phillip Danault also scored to help Montreal improve to 6-0-1 and remain the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss. Al Montoya, who played for the Islanders from 2010-12, stopped 26 shots in his first start since Oct. 18 as the Canadiens beat New York for the seventh straight time.

John Tavares and Dennis Seidenberg scored for New York and Thomas Greiss had 26 saves in his second straight start and third of the season.

With the Islanders' Nick Leddy off for slashing, Weber fired a shot from the point for the tiebreaking goal. It was just the second power-play goal in 23 opportunities given up by New York's league-leading penalty-killing unit (see full recap).

Pirri, Rangers rally to topple Bruins
NEW YORK -- Brandon Pirri scored twice to help the New York Ranger beat the Boston Bruins 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey also scored for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots. The Rangers won their third straight game, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to improve to 5-2-0.

David Pastrnak and Austin Czarina scored for Boston. The Bruins have lost three straight to drop to 3-4-0.

Zane McIntyre made 26 saves in his first NHL start. He was called up prior to Boston's 5-0 home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night to back up Malcolm Subban due to injuries to Tuukka Risk and Anton Khudobin (see full recap).

Pouliot scores twice, Oilers beat Capitals
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Benoit Pouliot scored twice, Cam Talbot made 34 saves and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Wednesday night to stretch their winning streak to four games.

Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic also scored for the Oilers (6-1-0). They have won four of five games at Rogers Place, their new downtown arena.

Alex Ovechkin scored for the Capitals (3-2-1). Braden Holtby made 25 saves (see full recap).