The Honduras manager may have the hottest seat in the house when he coaches a must-win game against his former team Tuesday.
Honduras always tries to make its opponents as uncomfortable as possible when they visit San Pedro Sula, but this time the heat is on Los Catrachos themselves in the country’s second city.
Some of the familiar advantages will still be there. Honduras is kicking off as the day approaches its highest temperature, with the high just out of the 90s and the humidity at 70 percent when the qualifier against Costa Rica starts at 5 p.m. ET. But some things will be different. For one, the team is playing in the Estadio Francisco Morazan rather than the Olimpico because of several incidents during the team’s game against Panama that moved FIFA to hand the team a one-match stadium ban.
Though some, including Honduras midfielder Mario Martinez, believe the smaller stadium (capacity 18,000) without a track around the field could create a more difficult atmosphere for Costa Rica to find victory, Honduras coach Jorge Luis Pinto’s seat may be the most uncomfortable in the building.
Pinto’s exact salary has never come to light, but he said he turned down an offer to coach a Chinese team for $250,000 per month after he took Costa Rica to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup. His salary in Honduras won’t approach those heights, but he’s hardly in the country for charity, and that’s not an insignificant factor in the FA’s decision to keep him or seek a different option.
We’ve already seen one coach be let go in the Hexagonal after a lopsided defeat, with U.S. national team boss Jurgen Klinsmann dismissed after a 4-0 loss to Costa Rica. Pinto fell to Klinsmann’s successor Bruce Arena and the U.S. by a 6-0 mark but kept his job. Both Pinto and his players made clear that they accepted things went poorly Friday but were answering to the Honduran fans and promising things would be better this time around.
“Unfortunately, there are games like that. That’s football. I don’t think anybody came into the defeat with a poor mentality. We went in with a lot of desire to win, a lot of confidence, but at the end things didn’t go like we wanted them to,” Martinez said. “But as I said, it’s in the past.
“Nobody here has any reason to hide. I’m here showing my face for the national team. I’m going to hide when I have to, or if I steal something or if I kill someone. Here I am showing my face, and Tueday is going to be a different game. Personally, if I have the chance to play, I’m going to give it my all. Hopefully Tuesday you’ll see another look from the national team.”
Pinto’s acrimonious split from Costa Rica after 2014 isn’t the only thing heating up the rivalry as the game approaches.
To boost spirits and generate excitement ahead of Tuesday’s game, “La H” held a pep rally in a San Pedro Sula park. One Costa Rican news portal headlined the AFP story from this event “Honduras national team visits gang members before receiving Costa Rica,” unsurprisingly prompting a fair number of angry responses, among them Romell Quioto calling the Costa Rican editors “imbeciles.”
“You think putting this is going to harm the name of the Honduras national team!” tweeted Quioto, who will miss Tuesday’s clash with a shoulder injury. “Be more serious.”
And former Costa Rica international Hernan Medford, who has coached Costa Rica and Honduras, shot down remarks a confident Martinez made about playing at the Estadio Morazan, where Medford briefly crossed paths with Martinez when the two were at Real Espana.
“What? Are they going to put the army or some fans on the field or what? We’re going with everything, it’s a footballing war,” Medford said.
One that could have a significant casualty if the battle doesn’t go his way. A defeat would keep Honduras in last place, with trips to Mexico and Panama up next. A win means Pinto soldiering on to fight another battle.