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The Daily Dirt, March 24: Do you know the way to San Jose?

The journey to Russia has to get back on track tonight

United States v Honduras: Group A - 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The nerves will be jangling tonight watching the U.S. national team in their World Cup qualifier against Honduras in San Jose. Losing their first two games in the Hex has created quite the uphill climb for the USMNT, and they have a minuscule margin for error.

In fact, only one team in Hex history ever started out worse than the U.S. has this time around. Canada in 1997 had a goal difference of -7 at this stage to go with their two losses. Trinidad and Tobago had the exact same record in 2005, and clawed their way into the fourth spot and defeated Bahrain in the inter-continental playoff to reach the World Cup in Germany the following year.

While the USMNT is stronger than both of those teams, the rest of CONCACAF has greatly improved as well. Honduras has been to the last two World Cups, and young stars that ply their trade in Major League Soccer will be leading them into tonight’s match. The Houston Dynamo’s Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto will be a handful for Bruce Arena’s defense. Panama, Tuesday night’s opponent, narrowly missed out on their first World Cup during the last cycle. The USMNT knocked them out of the playoff spot with late goals in the final qualifier. Revenge would be sweet for Roman Torres’ squad in Panama City.

It can be done, but it has to start tonight. Winning the remaining home games is critical moving forward. Twelve points would have gotten them into the playoff in the last cycle. Stealing a few points on the road will be necessary to get into the automatic qualification spots in the top three.


Domestic

What to watch for tonight in San Jose for the USMNT (Stars and Stripes FC)

Breaking down the tactics of tonight’s USMNT match with Honduras (MLS)

Michael Bradley’s leadership to be put to the test during the tough times facing the USMNT (SI)

Jason Kreis happy Orlando City gets a break this weekend (New Day Review)

A profile of FOX Sports’ top play-by-play announcer John Strong (Goal)

USL Season Preview (SB Nation)

Nine independent USL clubs have local TV deals (Soccer America)

NASL releases their Spring Season TV/streaming schedule (Empire of Soccer)

International

Is Mauricio Pochettino a candidate to replace Luis Enrique at Barcelona? (Sport)

Liga MX’s reputation improving among players in Europe (Fut MX Nation)

Syria’s World Cup hopes are still alive after a last minute penalty (BBC)

Local

Former Atlanta Silverbacks W-League star Stacey Balaam named new women’s coach at West Georgia (WDUN)