Greetings from the Wasatch Front, more specifically the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy, a dozen miles south on I-15. Before heading to Ruth’s Diner in Emigration Canyon for lunch and then Rio Tinto Stadium this evening for USA vs. Honduras, let’s get caught up on the 2014 World Cup field, which continues to grow with the three remaining Asian slots filled this morning: Australia, South Korea and Iran. They join Japan (and host Brazil). Five down, 27 to go.
Congrats to Iranian assistant coach Omid Namazi, a former West Virginia Mountaineer whose 17-year pro career with 15 indoor and outdoor clubs included stints with the Washington Diplomats and Maryland Bays in the ASL/APSL between 1988 and ’91 and MLS’s New York/New Jersey MetroStars in 1996. He coached indoor teams for years and oversaw the Chicago Red Stars in WPS in 2010. Here’s a 2011 piece I wrote about Namazi and Iran’s coaching staff.
Between the presidential election and World Cup qualification, a big 48 hours in Tehran.
Australia is in for the third consecutive time after defeating Iraq, 1-0, to finish second behind Japan in group play. South Korea secured its eighth straight berth but in unconvincing fashion, claiming the second spot in its group on goal difference after losing at home to Iran, 1-0. The only nations to appear in more consecutive World Cups:
After South Korea, the United States is next at six.
In the Asian playoff, Uzbekistan will play Jordan
or Oman this fall, the winner taking on the South American fifth-place side in another stage.
As for the Americans, a victory tonight would set them well on their way to Brazil next summer. It’s still too early to clinch, but barring complete collapse in the fall, a berth would be almost inevitable.
The lineup I expect:
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
Defenders, right to left: Brad Evans, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Edgar Castillo.
Deep midfielders: Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones.
Attacking midfielders, right to left: Graham Zusi, Clint Dempsey, Fabian Johnson.
Striker: Jozy Altidore.
Suspended: DaMarcus Beasley.
Yellow cards: Altidore, Bradley, Besler, Geoff Cameron, Brad Davis, Dempsey, Evans, Howard, Fabian Johnson.
Honduras is weakened by injuries, suspensions and dissent (Jerry Bengtson exited this week) but remains a potent adversary. Reminder: The Catrachos were the last team to hand the Americans a qualifying defeat on home soil (3-2 in 2001 at RFK Stadium). The U.S. home streak in qualifiers is 24 matches (22-0-2).
Kickoff: 9:06 p.m. ET.
TV: ESPN, UniMas, WatchESPN. (ESPN3.com in Pacific time zone only)
Weather: 88 degrees, 11 percent humidity, 0 percent chance of rain.
Referee: Enrico Wijngaarde, Suriname.
Other CONCACAF match: Panama at Costa Rica, 10 p.m. ET on both beIN Sport channels.