CARSON -- Honduras will play Saturday for a Olympic berth, and it won't have to go through the United States to get to London.
The Catrachos claimed their berth in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying semifinals with a 2-0 victory Tuesday night over Trinidad & Tobago at Home Depot Center, and head coach Luis Fernando Suarez said afterward he wasn't surprised his squad will match up with El Salvador, rather than the Americans -- and that he can't guarantee a victory.
What he does guarantee might be more important.
Saturday's winner-take-all showdown with the Salvadorans in Kansas City, Kan., “is the game that will qualify us for the Olympic Games, so in that sense it is the most important,” said Suarez, also Honduras' full national team coach. “But you have to value everything that the team has done before then. This is a great group with excellent players, they have good chemistry, and they have been qualifying for [youth] World Cups and other tournaments up to this point.
“For the short-term, it would be great to qualify for the Olympics. I'm not guaranteeing we will qualify, but I am guaranteeing that we are in good shape for the next two World Cup [cycles], for this one and for whoever is in charge [during qualifying for the 2018 tournament].”
Honduras, ranked third in CONCACAF behind Mexico and the U.S., played in the 2010 World Cup and begin qualifying in June for the next championship, in 2014 in Brazil. The Catrachos played in the 2000 and 2008 Olympics.
Eddie Hernandez and Anthony Lozano scored goals for Honduras, who needed at least a draw to secure a semifinal berth -- and remained in the hunt for the group title as Mexico and Panama kicked off the group finale about 45 minutes after the Catrachos victory, if Panama could somehow win by nine goals.
That was never going to happen, Suarez knew, and after what he called a “pragmatic” result, he was already preparing for El Salvador, an old rival.
“We knew from the beginning that El Salvador was a good team,” said Suarez, whose team beat the Salvadorans, 2-0, in a pretournament friendly in Texas. “I'll admit, that is not an opponent I wanted to see.”
But he's not startled to see the Cuscatlans in the final four, even if it was the Americans who were supposed to battling for a London berth.
“When players are still developing, anything can happen,” he said. “In CONCACAF it is said Mexico and the United States are the favorites, that they have a better chance than the others, but at the U-23 level, at the U-20 or U-17 levels, these things can still happen. It's not much of a surprise.”
Mexico will face Canada in Saturday's other semifinal.