Coming off a 3-1 loss to the
Ticos on Wednesday, Bradley revamped his lineup to include four fresh
faces with Conor Casey starting up front, Ricardo Clark in
the middle of the field in place of the suspended Michael Bradley, and
the two Jonathans- Spector and Bornstien- stepping in at the right and
left back spots, respectively.
Just three points behind the
U.S. with a game in hand coming into Saturday’s contest, Honduras had
plenty of reason to be searching for a win that would pull them into
The Hondurans came out with
a well-balanced lineup, highlighted by the strike partnership of Carlos
Costly and Carlos Pavon, and midfielders Amado Guevara and Wilson Palacios.
In the end the home side proved
too much , and came out 2-1 winners in a thrilling encounter.
Unfortunately for the U.S.,
they started right where they left off on Wednesday night, with Honduras
taking the game by the scruff of the neck with the early goal. In just
the 5th minute the visitors took the lead.
Clint Dempsey was dispossessed
near midfield and Honduras wasted no time pushing the ball forward through
Palacios. The Tottenham midfielder found Costly with space near the
top of the box and his curling shot found the lower left corner.
Dempsey tried to atone for
the error moments later, when he slid in and tried to connect with a
low cross from Jonathan Spector. But the Honduran defense was up to
the task and Dempsey’s shot was knocked wide for a corner.
The match settled down a bit,
but was still at a frantic pace in the 13th when Landon Donovan
was fouled as he and Conor Casey broke toward the Honduran box. The
resulting set play was cleared easily, but a combination of headers
from Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu set the table for Donovan to
get another crack at a good service. However, the second was no better than
the first and Honduras escaped their first real test of the night.
The US was back at it the 20th
after Dempsey won a free kick in a nice area. Donovan’s delivery was
wonderful to the back post, but it seemed to surprise Carlos Bocanegra
when it fell to him. Again, the clearance was kept alive and served back
into the mixer where Dempsey was barged from behind while attempting
to put a header on goal. The challenge was ruled fair, and the match
would continue, but the U.S. was showing signs of taking control of
Conor Casey had a glorious
chance just moments later and again Dempsey was in the middle of things,
challenging for a header. He lost the challenge, but forced a very weak
clearance. The ball fell to Casey for a volley ten yards from goal. His
shot was high and wide, though it was the best chance for the U.S. to that point
of the match.
In the 31st Dempsey
and Spector combined nicely down the right, giving Spector more than
enough time and space to pick his head up and whip in a good ball. But
Honduran ‘keeper Noel Vallardes did extremely well to get a hand on
the ball just in front of the sliding Casey and prevent a sure-fire
The game was clearly turning
in favor of the home side even though they were trailing and in the
38th Clark had a sparkling run in to the area and seemed
to have drawn a penalty when he was tackled from behind, but again the
penalty cries were dismissed.
But the cries would not be ignored in the closing minutes of the half when Honduran defender
Mario Beata clearly handled the ball in his own area. Donovan stepped
forward and buried the penalty, effectively sending the match to the
break on level pegging.
Benny Feilhaber was brought
on at the half to replace Mastoreni, but it was the only change made
by either side during the break.
Yet it was Honduras who opened
on the front foot, earning a corner that nearly led to a goal in the
opening minutes of the half. But the U.S. defense held strong and the
match quickly settled into a back and forth struggle in the middle of
Dempsey got the first great
look in the 61st, when a ball from Feilhaber found him unmarked
at the back post, but simply put, the finish was lacking and the visitors
escaped still level.
The match would take a turn
in the 69th when the U.S. finally took the lead off of a
corner. The ball in from Donovan found Dempsey at the back post. Dempsey
nodded down in front of goal and a diving Carlos Bocanegra poked it
home with his head.
The U.S. continued to hold
the ball well, a stark contrast to Wednesday’s fiasco, and the talented
Hondurans were forced to rely on balls over the top in search of Costly.
Though the long balls were not effective they did produce a few moments
of worry, and in the last ten minutes the Hondurans began to make a
good push for the equalizer.
Danilo Turcios had a good look from in front of goal but scuffed his shot over the bar , and Georgie Welcome looked to be in clear on goal only to stopped by a great tackle from Onyewu before he good get his shot off.
In the end it was not to be
for the visitors, and a much improved performance from the U.S. was
enough to see the Red, White and Blue head to the Confederations Cup
on a high note.
USA: Howard, Spector , Onyewu,
Bocanegra (71), Bornstein, Dempsey,
Clark, Mastroeni(46), Donovan, Altidore, Casey (75)
. SUB: Feilhaber (46), DeMerit (71), Beasley (75)
HON: Vallardes, Sabillon,
Figueroa, Chaves, Beata, Nunez (79), Palacios (66), Guevara, Thomas,
Pavon(66), Costly. SUBS: Turcios (66), Welcome (66), Martinez (79)
Honduras: Costly 5
USA: Donovan 44
USA: Bocanegra 69
Allen Ramsey, Goal.com
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