Gold Cup: Big win was a release, says Honduras coach

MIAMI – The seven goals against Grenada were exactly the antidote that Honduras needed after a scoreless draw against nine-man Guatemala had the skeptics out in full force about Los Catrachos’ ability to score.

“Today the pressure was greater since we tied the last game [vs. Guatemala],” admitted Honduras manager Luis Fernando Suárez in Friday’s postgame press conference after their dominant victory over Grenada. “Everyone was waiting for our first goal against Grenada and for how many goals we were going to win by.

“With the passing of the minutes, when things became much easier and the rival made it easier for us, pushing up its lines, it was a release for our team. They were all tight.”

While that might explain the goal-scoring outburst by the Hondurans on Friday, especially toward the end of the match when the result was well in hand, it does not give nearly enough credit to the lethal forward combination that Suárez fielded on the night.

Veteran striker Carlo Costly and his sidekick, 24-year-old Motagua forward Jerry Bengston, combined for five of the seven tallies against the Spice Boys. It’s a new partnership that needed a game like Friday’s to prove that the pair can click.

“In the few games we’ve played together, I think that we‘re adapting very well,” said the Man-of-the-Match Bengston. “Against El Salvador [in a pre-Gold Cup warm-up match in Houston], it was our best game in which we understood each other well. … Each game will help us become an even more explosive team.”

Honduras needed their goal-scoring tandem to produce after falling behind on a shock goal by Grenada on 19 minutes.

“On the negative side, I think that there were two or three plays that we didn’t finish,” said Suárez, who also criticized his back line for being stretched and pushing into the attack. “We suffered from selfishness in some situations in attack. If not, we could have had two or three more goals. There were two or three plays where the egoism was clear. I want a thinking where it’s more about the group.

“We have a lot of things to clear up. A lot of work to do. … This game does not take away the feeling that still there’s a lot to be done.”

After the 7-1 win, marking the most goals the team has ever scored in a single Gold Cup match, the Honduran fans that were the most numerous and vocal of the four nations on show at FIU Stadium will hope there’s more where that came from.

Up next is the group finale at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. on Monday night. Although a draw is enough to get through to the quarters, a win would allow Honduras to win its group.

“The game plan [vs. Jamaica] has to be totally different, but I am heartened by the fact that a [win] for us puts us first [in Group B] and we only depend on our game,” Suárez said. “But I am conscious that [Jamaica] are very strong and they have attackers who are very quick. … But we have the dream to finish first in the group with a win.”

Suárez, who is leading the new cycle for an Honduras side that is looking to make a return trip to the World Cup, admitted that the qualification to South Africa last year has only served to heighten expectations among fans that they should “win wherever the team plays,” according to the Catrachos boss.

“Today, this is a group that has a lot of pressure on it and we, as a coaching group, need to make sure they enjoy their soccer and they don’t fight against it.”