Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Clint Dempsey gave the United States an early lead, but a world class goal by Juan Carlos Garcia and a late defensive lapse from the USMNT allowed Honduras to win their World Cup qualifying final round opener.
The United States has nine games remaining in the Hex and plenty of time to gain the points needed to qualify for the World Cup, but they've put themselves into a tough situation with a loss to Honduras in their first match of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying final round. They struggled to create chances in the second half after an even first half, and eventually fell 2-1 to Honduras in San Pedro Sula.
Honduras were the better side in the beginning of the first half as the United States struggled to create chances. Jerry Bengston had a chance after just seven minutes on a counter attack, but Tim Howard came up with an excellent save. Howard had to make a big save again in the 33rd minute, on a shot from outside the penalty area by Mario Martinez.
Clint Dempsey fired the U.S. up against the run of play in the 36th minute, with Jermaine Jones providing a brilliant setup. The Schalke midfielder played a great diagonal to the far post for Dempsey, who beat Los Catrachos' defense and struck a first-time volley past Noel Valladares to give the USMNT a surprising lead.
Unfortunately for the United States, their lead did not last. Honduras equalized four minutes later on a brilliant set piece goal scored by Juan Carlos Garcia. Maynor Figueroa provided the assist, but the goal was all Garcia, whose overhead kick from the center of the penalty area was absolutely world class.
The United States looked lively in the opening minutes of the first half, but it didn't take long for fatigue to set in. With most of the U.S. players arriving from Europe and the United States, they were unprepared for the hot and humid weather in Honduras, and wore down quickly. Shortly after a Honduras goal was ruled out for offside in the 56th minute, Jürgen Klinsmann brought on Maurice Edu and Sacha Kljestan. Not long after, Graham Zusi entered the game, and Klinsmann had used up all of his substitutions by the 67th minute.
A slow pace second-half appeared to benefit the U.S., but it may have lulled them to sleep. All of Howard, Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez were caught out on the Honduras winner. Cameron failed to track Boniek Garcia's run into the box onto a through ball, and Howard came off his line very slowly. Garcia found the trailing Bengston, who was not well tracked by Gonzalez, and the Catrachos striker finished to make it 2-1 in the 79th minute.
Klinsmann's side struggled to find the ball as they pressed for an equalizer, and didn't get a good chance until deep in stoppage time. With the last touch of the ball, Gonzalez headed over on a corner by Zusi, and the home crowd went wild as the referee blew the final whistle to signal a Honduras win.