Honduras' historical dominance over Mexico in San Pedro Sula was on the verge of ending on Friday when El Tri went ahead 2-0, but the Catrachos pulled off a stunning comeback. Four minutes after cutting Mexicans' lead in half, Carlo Costly drew a questionable penalty that Jerry Bengston converted and Honduras walked away with a remarkable draw.
That draw came on the heels of a win over the United States that gives Honduras four points from two matches and results against who many believe are the two best teams in CONCACAF. But both of those results came at home. Impressive results as they may be, the Catrachos have yet to hit the road and their one-point lead atop the Hex looks especially precarious when you consider that they will play five of their final eight matches away from home.
Honduras has been led by a strong spine that puts Victor Bernardez, Maynor Figueroa, Roger Espinoza, Jerry Bengston and Costly in the center of the pitch. On Tuesday, that spine will challenge a Panama team that is desperate for a win.
The upstart Canaleros had high hopes entering the Hex and after going up 2-0 on Costa Rica in their opener, those hopes hit record highs. But Panama conceded twice and had to settle for a disappointing draw. Last Friday, they added a second draw, this time at Jamaica, and now Panama is winless after a home match and a trip to arguably the easiest place to win away in the Hex. That leaves them in a precarious position against Honduras, almost making it a must-win for the Canaleros, who cannot afford to drop points at home for the second time in as many chances.
Panama will ask a lot of Blas Perez, one of the few strikers in the region physical enough to play against Bernadez. If he can make things difficult on Bernardez, Luis Tejeda will find room, but the real test for Panama will be at the back. The Felipe Baloy led defense was exceptional in the third round, but they have allowed three goals in the last 126 minutes. If the Canaleros are going to upend the Catrachos and get their World Cup qualifying campaign back on trac, it will have to start with a return to the tremendous defending that got them to this point.
Match date/time: Tuesday, March 26; 10 p.m. ET
Venue: Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City, Panama
TV: beIN Espanol (USA), RPB Canal 4 (Panama), Canal 5 Televicentro (Honduras)