Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The performance was underwhelming. The result was even worse.
The U.S. Men’s National Team got off on the wrong foot in their first game in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying on Wednesday afternoon, putting forth a flat performance en route to suffering a 2-1 loss to Honduras in hot and humid conditions at Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula.
Clint Dempsey intially put the Americans up in the first half of their Hexagonal opener, but a spectacular bicycle kick from Juan Carlos Garcia and second-half finish from Jerry Bengtson saw a lethargic U.S. side surrender its lead and suffer its first ever loss in Honduras in World Cup qualifying
After a slow start in which Tim Howard was forced to make a handful of saves, Dempsey gave the U.S. the lead when he got on the end of a chipped pass from Jermaine Jones and hit a one-timed volley over Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares in the 35th minute.
Los Catrachos negated Dempsey’s goal, his sixth in qualifying, and brought the home crowd back to its feet four minutes later. A ball was whipped in by centerback Victor Bernardez from the right flank and fellow central defender Maynor Figueroa chested it back across goal. Garcia, who is also a defender, took advantage of some lax marking and hit an overhead kick into the upper 90 that Howard could only stare at in frustration.
The game was even at halftime and though the U.S. improved in the second half, it was Honduras which continued to look the more dangerous side. A goal by Bengtson was correctly whistled for offside in the 56th minute, but he wound up netting the winner anyway.
After a through ball was slipped in behind Geoff Cameron, Oscar Boniek Garcia took advantage of Howard rushing off his line by playing a square pass to Bengtson. Omar Gonzalez, who surprisingly started in place of usual U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra, reacted late and was beaten to the ball by the young Honduran forward who had an empty net to shoot at.
The Americans tried to push on for a late equalizer, but never found it. Gonzalez came close on the final play of the game, hitting a header that sailed high following a corner kick.
Now facing pressure to pick up points, the U.S. will next host Costa Rica at Dicks Sporting Goods Park in their second qualifier on March 22 before visiting Mexico at Estadio Azteca four days later.
What do you think of the U.S.’s 2-1 loss to Honduras? What went wrong for the Americans? What needs to change by the time the next qualifier rolls around in March?
Share your thoughts below.