The United States did their chances of qualifying for the next World Cup a world of good on Tuesday night, with a composed 2-0 victory over a dogged Panama side. At the halfway stage of the six team contest they lead the group by two points and will be looking to extend that advantage with victory over a Honduran side who have looked distinctly average so far in this stage of the competition.
In the continuing absence of Landon Donovan - still ignored by coach Jurgen Klinsmann despite making himself available for this game - it was Jozy Altidore who caught the eye with a man-of-the-match performance, including scoring the decisive opening goal. Altidore scored 31 goals for AZ Alkmaar in The Netherlands last season and has now found the net in each of his last three appearances for the USA. A smart start for your sports picks would be to back him to open the scoring for the USA in this game, even though his odds are likely to be short.
Honduras are, of course, a better side than Panama and have a fine pedigree of reaching World Cups, no matter how byzantine the CONCACAF qualification process becomes. However, their 2-0 home win over Jamaica wasn’t all that convincing. After taking an early lead, they were unable to extend it until the 88th minute, by which time the Reggae Boys were down to ten men. Factor in that the scorer of their opening goal, Oscar Boniek Garcia, later suffered an injury which could keep him out of this game. Factor in the strong US performance on a bad pitch in Seattle and the problems that Honduras had breaking down a far inferior Jamaican side and it all begins to look a bit difficult for Luis Fernando Suarez’s men.
Taking all of these things into consideration, the best option for your soccer picks would seem to be a 3-1 win for the USA, but you could hedge that a little by backing the scores to be level at half-time, too. The soccer odds at Betfair make the US 1/2 favorites to win outright, which gives you the chance of a small profit no matter how cautiously you want to play it.
One thing which the USA side will have to be careful of in this game is key players picking up cautions. Altidore and Fabian Johnson are one yellow card away from missing the trip to Costa Rica in September, a game which could be vital as a point there should be sufficient to guarantee them at least the fourth spot in the group (which results in a play-off against New Zealand for qualification to Brasil 2014). For this game they will be missing defender DaMarcus Beasley, who picked up his second yellow of the competition against Panama. There are worse games for him to miss than this one, but Klinsmann would definitely have preferred to have his most experienced defender available.
Inevitably, though, there will be yellow cards and you can normally expect four or five in a match of this nature. That may even be something to consider doing in-play, but if you do be aware that proportionally more cards tend to be issued after the 60 minute mark than before, as players (and referees!) get tired.
Also take a look at my Free Soccer Picks for Costa Rica vs. Panama