The United States didn't turn in an ideal performance in their Gold Cup opener, but they got the result they needed. Honduras challenged them from start to finish, but Clint Dempsey came up with two massive goals in a 2-1 victory.
Honduras were well on top in the early part of the match, with the U.S. midfield getting run over, but they eventually settled in and started building attacks. Dempsey relieved the pressure on his team in the 25th minute, scoring the first of his goals off a corner. The initial ball in was cleared out, but the Americans worked it back in to Jozy Altidore. His shot was saved, but Dempsey was there to pounce on the rebound.
The second half started a lot like the first, with Los Catrachos looking like the better side but failing to convert that into great scoring opportunities. And once again, their momentum got killed off by a Dempsey goal against the run of play, on a set piece. On this occasion, in the 64th minute, he headed in a beautiful free kick from Michael Bradley.
Carlos Discua entered the game in response, and he brought his team back into the game just a minute after coming onto the pitch. He torched Ventura Alvarado on an impressive run before finishing past Brad Guzan from just inside the penalty box.
Bradley thought he had a game-clinching free kick goal in the 78th minute, but was denied by Donis Escober. It looked like at least part of the ball had crossed the line, but the officials ruled that Bradley's shot was not all the way over before Escober pushed it away. The CONCACAF Gold Cup does not have goal line technology.
Honduras pressed hard in the closing minutes, but couldn't find a second goal to scrape a point, and the U.S. held on for a big, if nervy, result.
United States: Guzan; Johnson, Brooks, Alvarado, Chandler (Evans 63'), Zardes, Beckerman, Bradley, Yedlin, Dempsey, Altidore (Wondolowski 59')
Goals: Dempsey (25', 64')
Honduras: Escober; Beckeles, M. Figueroa, Palacios, H. Figueroa, Crisanto, Najar (Quioto 63'), Acosta, Mejia, Martinez (Discua 69'), Lozano
Goals: Discua (69')
3 things we learned
1. Clint Dempsey is a boss. This was not a good USMNT performance by any stretch of the imagination, but Dempsey has spent a decade papering over this team's cracks. He bails the U.S. out of bad spots with huge plays repeatedly, and he did it twice in this game. Neither of his goals were pretty, but he was in the right place at the right time and came up with composed finishes. That's why he's a lock for the starting lineup,
2. The USMNT has a LOT to fix. Alvarado was a disaster at the back, while John Brooks and Timothy Chandler weren't much better. Kyle Beckerman didn't have a good game. Bradley was fine, but this setup didn't suit him. Same goes for Gyasi Zardes. Altidore had a couple of nice moments, but was mostly poor. There was a lot of scary stuff here, and Jurgen Klinsmann has a ton of work to do.
3. But the good news is they have time to fix it. If the early game between Panama and Haiti is any indication, this is the hardest game that the United States will have to play for a while. Their next two group stage matches -- plus their quarterfinal game -- will all be easier than this one, leading up to a likely matchup with Costa Rica in the semifinal. Even though this wasn't an encouraging performance, Klinsmann has three whole games to try different things and find his best team before this tournament gets really hard.
SB Nation presents: The future stars of the USMNT