[HONDURAS-USA] The USA took a first-half lead thanks to Clint Dempsey (who else?), but looked shell-shocked when Honduras responded with a brilliant Juan Carlos Garcia bicycle-kick goal four minutes later.
A Jerry Bengtson goal with 11 minutes left handed the USA a 2-1 loss in the first of its 10 games of the final round of 2014 World Cup qualifying.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann found fault in just about every area of the U.S. game. “We didn’t find our passing flow,” he said. “We didn’t combine well enough, we didn’t hold the ball well enough.”
He added that the USA gave the Catrachos too many opportunities and they took advantage of them. "I think we had too many mistakes in too many areas," he said. "Tactically, in certain ways. Individual mistakes. Collective mistakes.
-- Honduras had more possession in the first half but did not overwhelm in scoring chances. Eddie Johnson headed high from close range after a corner kick and Jozy Altidore looped a ball onto the top of the net after getting his foot on Eddie Johnson’s cross. Dempsey’s 35th minute goal indicated that a contain-and-counter approach might work, but just four minutes later Maynor Figueroa chested the ball to Garcia, who with his back to the goal launched a brilliant over-head rocket from nine yards in the corner of Tim Howard's goal.
-- Roger Espinoza, who moved from Honduras to Colorado at age 12 and spent the last five seasons with Sporting Kansas City before signing with Wigan, ran the show in midfield for the Catrachos. They especially frustrated the USA late in the game, playing keepaway to extinguish U.S. hopes of salvaging a point.
-- The USA started eight European-based field players, who were playing in temperatures 40 to 50 degrees higher than what they’ve been accustomed to. Three Mexican-based players Herculez Gomez, Jose Torres and Edgar Castillo remained on the bench. More used to the 80-90 degree conditions, could they have given the USA a boost?
-- Dempsey ran on to a ball perfectly chipped over the Honduran backline by Jermaine Jones and volleyed past keeper Noel Valladares to give the USA a fleeting lead in the first half. Dempsey scored five of the USA’s 12 goals in the six games of the semifinal round. His strike against Honduras moved Dempsey into third place, ahead of Brian McBride, among all-time U.S. scorers with 31 goals, behind Landon Donovan (49 goals) and Eric Wynalda (34). Donovan, of course, was sorely missed on Wednesday.
-- The loss marks the first time the USA lost its first game of the Hexagonal since the six-team, home-and-away final round of qualifying was established.
USA Hexagonal Openers (World Cup qualifying)
2013: at Honduras 1-2
2009: Mexico 2-0
2005: at Trinidad & Tobago 2-1
2001: Mexico 2-0
1997: at Jamaica 0-0
Feb. 6 in San Pedro Sula
Honduras 2 USA 1. Goals: J.C. Garcia 39, Bengtson 78; Dempsey 35.
Honduras --Valladares, A.Peralta, Bernardez, Figueroa, J.C. Garcia, Garrido, Espinoza, O.Garcia, Martinez, Bengtson (Claros, 84), Costly (Welcome, 90+).
USA --Howard, Chandler, Cameron, Gonzalez, F.Johnson, Williams (Edu, 57), Jones (Zusi, E.Johnson (Kljestan, 59), Bradley, Dempsey, Altidore.
Referee:Walter Quesada (Costa Rica).
March 22: USA-Costa Rica
Kickoff: 10 pm ET.
TV: ESPN, WatchESPN, Univision Networks