SANDY, Utah – The nadir of the Jurgen Klinsmann era happened four months ago on a sun-drenched field in the heart of Honduras.
In the US national team's first match of the CONCACAF Hexagonal, Clint Dempsey had given the US a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute, an advantage that lasted all of four minutes before Juan Carlos García found a spectacular equalizer.
Building upon that, the Hondurans turned the second half into a case study in inevitability, running the listless Yanks ragged then finally plunging the knife in with the 79th-minute winner.
It was the fourth time in seven qualifiers under Klinsmann that the US had coughed up a lead.
In the four World Cup qualifiers since then, the US have won three, drawn once and allowed just one goal. That run of games culminates with another matchup against the Catrachos, this one on Tuesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium (9 pm ET; ESPN/UniMas, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Better defense. Better attack. Better form overall. So is it time for some payback?
“On a personal level, you never like to lose,” US midfielder Michael Bradley told reporters on Monday morning in the team's final practice at Rio Tinto. “And when you’re on the wrong end of a score and you have the chance to put it right, you want to take that.
"But look, we’re trying to qualify for a World Cup, we’re not trying to settle a personal score with Honduras. There’s a bigger picture here.”
The US are focused squarely on next summer’s tournament in Brazil, and know very well that three points in the high desert of Utah means they’re just about there.
They also know that Honduras – a team missing key players to suspension (Víctor Bernárdez), possibly injury (Boniek García) and internal strife (Jerry Bengtson) – remains a dangerous opponent, one that outworked them in the tropical heat and humidity back in February.
“I remember them having a lot of energy, and beating us to a lot of second balls and things like that. Going into a lot of hard challenges,” said US central defender Omar Gonzalez, who started and, like the rest of the US, wilted in the second half of that loss.
“So tomorrow, I think we just have to play like we have been the past couple of games where we bring the energy, we set the tone of the game. And if we do that, I think we’ll be fine.”