JOHN KRETLOW - Thursday, February 7, 2013
Despite scoring first, the US National Team suffered a hard loss on the road versus Honduras Tuesday in the first game of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann had no real surprises in his roster, although his decision to sit Carlos Bocanegra and play Omar Gonzalez yielded a backline with little qualifying experience.
While the first half lacked rhythm and precision from each side, both ended up notching world-class goals.
Clint Dempsey opened the scoring in the 36th minute when Jermaine Jones lobbed the ball over the Honduran defense and found the Texan, who made a late run into the 18-yard box and volleyed home the goal.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Honduras leveled the game in the 40th minute after Maynor Figueroa chested a pass to Juan Carlos Garcia, who fired a blistering bicycle kick past a shocked Tim Howard.
The US started the second half strong, creating their first chance in the 51st minute when link-up play between Fabian Johnson and Jozy Altidore opened up room for Michael Bradley. The Roma player took a shot from just outside the box, but the Honduran defense deflected the ball wide.
In the 65th minute, the US nearly scored again as Bradley set up Dempsey just inside the box, but the Tottenham forward had his bid for a brace likewise turned aside before reaching the keeper.
Nonetheless, the Catrachos took the lead in the 79th minute as miscommunication between Geoff Cameron and Howard allowed for Oscar Boniek Garcia to slip the ball to a wide-open Jerry Bengtson, who easily slotted in the game-winner for the home team while Gonzalez was slow to react and lunged in vain behind him.
A desperate US squad was unable to find the equalizer in the final minutes of the game, as the humid weather in Honduras seemed to weigh down and eventually cause the Americans to wilt down the stretch.
Honduras takes the three points, then, and now the US is faced with a must-win game against Costa Rica in Denver on March 22, having to take on Mexico in Azteca Stadium in the following game.