Gold Cup: Nick Rimando, USMNT defense on alert ahead of must-win semi vs. ambitious Honduras

ARLINGTON, Texas –Through four matches in this Gold Cup, US goalkeepers have spent more time celebrating their teammates’ goals than they have making saves in their own box. 

Nick Rimando and Sean Johnson have combined to make a grand total of nine saves and faced few critical, must-stop situations with the game in the balance.

That’s likely to change on Wednesday night at Cowboys Stadium, when an upset-minded Honduras hope they’ll be the first of the US’ Gold Cup opponents to put the favorites under considerable pressure (7 pm ET, Fox Soccer/UniMas/Univision Deportes, Live chat on MLSsoccer.com).

“I think that’s the most difficult part of goalkeeping,” Rimando told reporters before Tuesday’s training session. “When your team does dominate most of the game, you have to be sharp and ready for any moment. I think the defenders in front of us have done well, and it’s made my job easy and Sean’s job easy. Honduras is going to be a great opponent, they beat a great team in Costa Rica, so we have to be prepared.”

Given that Honduras was the last team to beat the United States in a meaningful match, walking away with a 2-1 win in February’s World Cup qualifier in San Pedro Sula, and they barely conceded the US a hard-fought 1-0 victory in Sandy, Utah, just last month, nobody on the American side expects the kind of blowouts the Yanks have enjoyed during this tournament.

Still, the Americans have reason to be confident considering the game will likely reunite Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler in central defense, while Kyle Beckerman provides a formidable shield in front of the first-choice duo. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is taking nothing for granted, though.

“It’s not going to be an easy game at all,” he said. “I think [Honduran head coach] Luis Suárez over the last two years has formed a team that is very compact, very individually gifted. [They have] a lot of good individual players that can make a difference.”

Each team the US has faced thus far has employed a 10-men behind the ball, counterattacking approach to slow down the Americans’ fast-paced, attacking style. Klinsmann said that he expects Honduras to be well organized and difficult to break down, but added Rimando and the defense also should expect to have more work this time around.

“It’s a knockout game, so I expect a Honduran side that goes forward goes as well, which they did if you watched the Costa Rica game,” Klinsmann said. “It’s the beauty of knockout games. Sooner or later, one team has to score, has to do something. I love those games, [and] we’re really looking forward to it.”