[USA-HONDURAS] A dramatic comeback for Santino Quaranta turned his into a starring role, yet in what amounted to a cameo appearance Benny Feilhaber nearly stole the show Wednesday night at RFK Stadium in the second Gold Cup match for the USA.
Quaranta polished off a superb sequence orchestrated by Feilhaber to break open a goalless game in the 75th minute and Feilhaber helped set up a goal for Brian Ching four minutes later to give the USA a 2-0 victory against Honduras and the top spot in Group B with a 2-0-0 record.
Feilhaber's entry in the 64th minute accelerated a swing in momentum seized by the USA after short intervals of control shared by the teams until that point in the match. Honduras could have scored in the 30th minute when Walter Martinez raced clear on a breakaway from a long ball played out of the back, but he shot well wide of the near post under a challenge from keeper Troy Perkins.
The feisty Honduran attackers - Carlos Costly, Marvin Chavez and Martinez - were ably supported by Roger Espinoza and Carlos Palacios and though not always in sync, stretched the U.S. back line and forced a lot of defensive work from the midfielders as well.
Far more chances fell to the USA in the first half but despite the good flank work of left mid Robbie Rogers and right back Steve Cherundolo, Honduran goalie Donis Escober seldom had to leave his feet or his goal line. Quaranta headed a bouncing cross from Rogers wide of the post and a nice through ball from Kyle Beckerman ran for Ching to fight through a tackle but stub his shot across the goalmouth while stumbling.
After Martinez's miss, another good move up the left flank - where outside back Heath Pearce was also active - produced a cross that Freddy Adu headed right to Escober. Quaranta served a ball from the right side that Rogers elected to volley rather than head; he got a good whack at the ball but the shot bounced off-target.
Pearce was getting a lot of the ball to start the second half as the Hondurans, who mounted a mild push at the end of the first half, sat back to absorb pressure and conceded most of the space in midfield. When Feilhaber replaced Beckerman's central partner, Logan Pause, and Davies supplanted Adu, the pace and precision of the U.S. play increased.
The movement and interplay of the Americans stitched together a truly sublime goal. Pearce ran the ball up the left side, Feilhaber played a quick one-two with Ching and just as a tackle came in, relayed a square ball to Davies near the penalty arc. Davies, his sightline to goal blocked, laid it into the path of Quaranta, whose sizzling first-time strike flashed underneath Escober's lunge to sting the base of the net. In his 12th international appearance, he'd scored his first goal in his home stadium.
Quaranta wept as he embraced his teammates and looked to the skies as deafening cheers engulfed him. In the stands were not only thousands of D.C. United fans but his wife and two children.
"A million things went through my head when I scored," said Quaranta, whose fine play following rehabilitation from drug dependency convinced U.S. coach Bob Bradley to bring him back to the national team after a long absence. "I was just so proud to have done it here and to be able to do it at RFK, where it all started for me, was just special. I keep going back to that word but that's just how this night is."
Honduras, reeling from a such a powerful, dramatic moment, soon surrendered a second goal, and again wide play set it up. Feilhaber played a free kick in midfield to the right side, and Cherundolo strode forward to loft a cross that Ching, crashing the box as only he can, headed off the shoulder of marker Nery Medina and into the net.
The U.S. faces Haiti in its Group B finale Saturday in Foxborough, Mass., without Adu and Feilhaber, who have been summoned to rejoin their European clubs for preseason training. Feilhaber was one of seven supplemental players named to the Gold Cup roster, and whomever replaces him will have a tough act to follow.
In addition to scoring his first U.S. goal in his home stadium, Quaranta played with former United teammates Adu and Perkins, who were with him during those heady seasons of 2004 and 2005, before injuries and health issues sent him to two other MLS teams and nearly out of the game forever.
"I was saying before the match how incredible it is to see a player who has so much potential and talent in 2004-05 when he was here with me and to see him come so far from being in such a hole to being on top of the world, it's only fitting that he scored," said Perkins.
July 8 in Washington, D.C.
USA 2 Honduras 0. Goals: Quaranta 75, Ching 79.
USA -- Perkins, Cherundolo, Marshall, Parkhurst, Pearce, Quaranta, Pause (Feilhaber, 64), Beckerman, Rogers, Ching (Cooper, 82), Adu (Davies, 64).
Honduras -- Escober, Norales, Acevedo, O.Chavez, Medina, Palacios, Espinoza (Padilla, 70), M.Valladares, Costly (Welcome, 79), M.Chavez (Lalin, 65), W.Martinez.
Yellow Cards: Pearce 40, Parkhurst 90; Honduras -- Medina 38, W.Martinez 93+.
Referee: Courtney Campbell (Jamaica).