[WORLD CUP 2010 QUALIFYING] For the sixth straight time -- and the third time on the road -- the USA qualified for the World Cup.
In surely the wildest qualifier the USA has ever played, it came back after going 1-0 down seconds into the second half to beat Honduras, 3-2, at the Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula.
The second half featured five goals -- two on free kicks -- and at least a dozen clear chances for both teams, but the game wasn't decided until Carlos Pavon -- the former L.A. Galaxy striker and Catracho elder statesman -- skied a penalty kick over the bar in the 87th minute.
The surprise U.S. hero: Conor Casey with the tying and (brilliantly taken) go-ahead goals -- his first two at the senior national team level ...
Oguchi Onyewumade up for a horrendous giveaway that led to the first goal -- a free kick converted by Julio Cesar de Leon-- to provide the passes that set up the USA's tying and winning goals.
In the 55th minute, Onyewu's long pass was flicked on by Charlie Davies to Casey, who beat goalkeeper Noel Valladares and headed the ball on one bounce into the empty net.
Stunned by the tying goal, the Catrachos cracked and within 15 minutes it was 3-1 USA.
On the tying goal in the 65th minute, Onyewu broke up a Honduran attack and fed Landon Donovan, whose through ball found Casey, who beat two defenders and calmly put the ball away past the hapless Valladares.
Donovan seemingly put the game away when he matched Rambo de Leon with a third U.S. goal on a free kick in the 71st minute.
But the game never looked like it would end 3-1, and de Leon added a second goal in the 78th for Honduras.
After American midfielder Stuart Holdenwas scored for a handball on one of dozens on wild scrambles in the U.S. area, Pavon missed his penalty kick badly in the 87th -- and again with a header minutes later.
The last chance fell to sub Benny Feilhaber, who missed on a one-on-one chance with Valladares, and the USA ran out the four minutes of stoppage time with almost total control of the ball.
With the win, the USA became the eighth team to qualify for the World Cup finals on Saturday, joining Denmark, Germany, Italy and Serbia in Europe, Mexico in Concacaf, Ivory Coast in Africa and Chile in South America.
Honduras fell to fourth place behind Costa Rica, a 4-0 winner over Trinidad & Tobago. With the USA assured of a berth in the finals and surely to be without some of Saturday's heroes, the Ticos will certainly feel their chances of clinching the third automatic berth have improved. As long as they do as well as the shell-shocked Catrachos, who travel to El Salvador, the Ticos will clinch third place.
October 10 in San Pedro Sula
Honduras 2 USA 3.
HON - Julio Cesar de Leon (unassisted) 47
USA - Conor Casey (Charlie Davies) 55
USA - Conor Casey (Landon Donovan) 66
USA - Landon Donovan (unassisted) 71
HON - Julio Cesar de Leon (David Suazo) 78
USA --Howard, Spector, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Bornstein, Holden (Cherundolo, 90+3), Clark, Bradley, Donovan, Davies (Altidore, 79), Casey (Feilhaber, 84)
Honduras --N.Valladares, Sabillon, Chavez, Figueroa, Izaguirre, Alvarez (Suazo, 64), Thomas (Nunez, 75), Palacios, de Leon (Martinez, 80), Costly, Pavon.
Yellow cards: Honduras -- Chavez 47, Figueroa 73; Bornstein 85.
Referee:Roberto Moreno (Panama).
USA / HON
Shots: 16 / 13
Shots on Goal: 7 / 5
Saves: 3 / 4
Corner Kicks: 5 / 5
Fouls: 12 / 16
Offside: 1 / 2
Key=*clinched berth in World Cup 2010 finals.
TEAM GP W T L GF GA P
*USA 9 6 1 2 17 11 19
*Mexico 9 6 0 3 16 10 18
Costa Rica 9 5 0 4 13 13 15
Honduras 9 4 1 4 16 11 13
El Salvador 9 2 2 5 9 14 8
Trin. & Tobago 9 1 2 6 8 20 5
(The top three teams advance to World Cup 2010; the fourth-place team faces the fifth-place team from South America in a playoff.)
Key=*clinched berth in World Cup finals.
Mexico 4 El Salvador 1
Honduras 2 USA 3
Costa Rica 4 Trin. & Tobago 0
Trin. & Tobago-Mexico