For Hondurans, Saturday night's World Cup qualifier is an opportunity to unite during a political crisis that's stretched on since June. For U.S. players, it's a chance to clinch a spot in next year's 32-nation field in South Africa.

"For me personally, and I think would I speak for the guys who were in Germany in 2006, this would be an opportunity at redemption in some ways," forward Landon Donovan said Friday as the United States prepared for the big match in Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano.

Everything was pretty much normal at the U.S. hotel, with the usual amount of security but nothing extraordinary. A few American fans were in the lobby seeking autographs.

While police fired tear gas and a water cannon at protesters in the capital of Tegucigalpa, that is about a 4-hour drive across mountains from San Pedro Sula, Honduras' No. 2 city.

"It's obviously of interest to those of us who pay attention to world news in general," Donovan said, "but that part aside, the only interest from a soccer standpoint is making sure that it's safe and that everything's OK for us. And, like we've said, we rely on our security team, on the coaching staff, on U.S. Soccer to do that. It's not something we worry about. And they've never put us in harm's way, and I don't think they every would."

A police official told The Tribune newspaper that there will be about 1,000 police and 350 soldiers to provide security at the stadium, establishing a series of perimeters rotating out from the field.

The United States (5-2-1) leads North and Central America and the Caribbean with 16 points with two games left, followed by Mexico (5-3) with 15, Honduras (4-3-1) with 13 and Costa Rica (4-4) with 12. The top three teams qualify, and the No. 4 finisher meets South American's fifth-place team in a home-and-home playoff.

The U.S. would clinch with a win, if Costa Rica loses at home to already eliminated Trinidad and Tobago (1-5-2) or with a tie combined with a Costa Rican loss or tie. If the Americans don't clinch Saturday, they could assure themselves a berth on Wednesday with a tie or win against Costa Rica at Washington, D.C.

"We go into this game with an opportunity to go for it," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "The idea is to go for three points, to be aggressive and leave it all on the field."

Coming off first-round elimination at the 2006 tournament, the 11th-ranked U.S. is seeking its sixth straight World Cup berth.

Trying to make it to the World Cup for only the second time and first since 1982, 42nd-ranked Honduras boasts several Europe-based players, including Wilson Palacios of Tottenham, Maynor Figueroa and Hendry Thomas of Wigan and David Suazo of Inter Milan.

"We're two games away from being able to make history," said forward Carlos Pavon, who turned 36 Friday. "I'm very close to being able to accomplish my dream."

The Catrachos are 8-0 at home in qualifying, outscoring opponents 22-3 in those matches.

"Because they're not big names like the Spains or Russia or England," defender Oguchi Onyewu said, "that doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be an easy outing every time you go out there."

Street vendors were out in force selling blue-and-white Honduran flags, both small and the full-sized banners, for fans to exercise their patriotic fervor. When the U.S. team bus came in from the airport on Thursday, local media followed trying to get photos and video.

"Here in Honduras, football feels different because of that social factor that it represents for the people, the fans, the emotions, the passion that there is," coach Reinaldo Rueda said. "It's something that you don't get in other countries."

And the hot, humid weather will be different for many of the players, used to a temperate October climate in the United States and Europe.

"You can feel the air," Donovan said. "It's probably hard to walk a few minutes in that heat much less run around in it."

Honduras will be missing captain Amado Guevara and Elvis Turcios, both suspended for yellow card accumulation, and the U.S. is without midfielder Clint Dempsey, who sprained his right shoulder last weekend and will be replaced by Benny Feilhaber or Stuart Holden.

Eight U.S. players have yellow cards and would miss the match against Costa Rica if they get another: Donovan, Feilhaber, Jozy Altidore, Carlos Bocanegra, Conor Casey, Steve Cherundolo, Ricardo Clark and Frankie Hejduk.

Bradley will take that into account in his lineup, and players will think about that, too.

"Maybe you think about it for a second, but you don't want to let it dictate how you play," Donovan said. "If we can win tomorrow, then it doesn't matter how many yellow cards we pick up. If we win, it's done."

NOTE: U.S. players were disappointed the match will be available only on closed circuit in bars and restaurants. The Honduran federation owned the rights as the home team and sold them to a company that made that decision. "It's pretty sad," said Bocanegra, the U.S. captain.


Associated Press Writer Ben Fox in Tegucigalpa contributed to this report.