Honduras 2 : 1 USA
The USA’s Hexagonal World Cup qualifying campaign started with a 2-1 defeat against a lively Honduran side in San Pedro Sula.
Although Clint Dempsey gave the Americans a first half lead, Klinsmann’s side failed to hold it before an incredible bicycle kick by Juan Carlos Garcia level the score.
Honduras were the better side in the second half but it took a loss of concentration from EPL Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron to allow Oscar Boniek to square to an unmarked Jerry Bengston for the winner.
The USA began with forwards Eddie Johnson, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey all on the pitch in San Pedro Sula.
However the home side started the brighter and dominated early possession without overworking Tim Howard in the American goal, a 23rd minute shot from Wigan’s Roger Espinoza being straight at the experienced keeper.
That livened up the game at both ends.
Eddie Johnson headed over from a Jermaine Johnson corner under strong defensive pressure beforte the Sounders forward turned supplier from his left wing berth, heaving over a cross for Altidore just before the half hour mark. That too went over the crossbar.
At the other end, Fabian Johnson displayed solid defensive work to deny former Sporting KC man Roger Espinoza.
Mario Martinez came closest thus far with a curler Tim Howard had to save sharply for a corner. That effort became the precursor to two delightful goals.
With ten minutes to go to half time, USA took the lead.
Jermaine Jones chipped a beautiful ball forward to Spurs’ Dempsey to run onto. He timed the run superbly and lashed the ball past Valladares to give the Americans the lead. It was Dempsey’s sixth goal of the campaign.
The lead barely lasted. Maynar Figueroa chested a cross from the left into the path, almost, of Juan Carlos Garcia. He reached back and found a perfectly timed bicycle kick to leave Howard helpless.
Both goals were a thing of beauty but Jurgen Klinsmann may want to reexamine the clearance work at the initial corner.
The sides exited for half time with the game finely in the balance, goals one a-piece, shots also level at six.
A Michael Bradley effort was blocked at one end before a Honduras had the ball in the net, an effort that was correctly ruled out for offside.
Klinsmann made changes to attempt to disrupt Honduras’ possession advantage. Maurice Edu and Sacha Kljestan replaced Danny Williams and Eddie Johnson for the game’s first changes.
Dempsey had another shot deflected wide before in the 67th minute, Graham Zusi entered for Jermaine Jones, the USA’s last change. By then Klinsmann had used all three substitutes and Honduras none, a solid indication of how the game was moving.
Carlos Costly provided the thrill of the match with a back heeled nutmeg on Timmy Chandler that will make many a highlight reel in the years to come and was reminiscent of Johan Cruff’s manoeuvre on Swedish defender Jan Olsson in the 1974 World Cup, a move so famous it even has its own wikipedia entry.
It came to nothing but Boniek Garcia fired a drive wide just after.
The decisive moment was to follow.
Jerry Bengston gave Honduras the lead when Houston Dynamo’s Boniek Garcia took advantage of confusion between Howard and Cameron to square the ball to an unmarked Bengston.
Bengston stroked the ball home to give the Hondurans a come-from-behind lead which they never relinquished.
Jorge Claros of Hibernian in Edinburgh replaced the goalscorer Bengston who received a knock but he had already made his major impact on the game and the Hexagonal.
The USA threatened at the end to secure an equaliser but Zusi headed over from a corner.
There are two further matches in the Hexagonal today. Panama meet Costa Rica and favourites Mexico play Jamaica.