During a stop in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday, the U.S. national team hit a bump in the road to the World Cup as Honduras rallied for a 2-1 win.
The Americans took the lead in the 36th minute with a goal from Clint Dempsey, but the advantage lasted for only four minutes as Juan Carlos García hit a sublime bicycle kick from near the penalty spot. Jerry Bengtson’s winner came in the 79th minute after a defensive miscue from the U.S. defense.
The match started at 3 p.m. local time with temperatures on the field reportedly exceeding 90 degrees. The U.S. players – most of them arriving Monday from Europe – appeared sluggish at times, but sloppy giveaways were the bigger problem.
Honduras dominated the opening 15 minutes before the U.S. began to create some chances. One of the best came when Eddie Johnson, playing on the left wing, sent a cross to Jozy Altidore. The striker, who was being pressured, flicked the ball over the crossbar.
The Hondurans responded with a couple of great chances. Roger Espinoza sent a low rolling ball across the face of goal, but American defender Fabian Johnson was there for the clearance. Mario Martínez then forced U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard to make a diving save with a curling shot toward the upper left corner.
With both teams starting to create more chances, the Americans struck first. Jermaine Jones hit a perfectly placed chip over the back line of the defense. Dempsey took the ball out of the air for a one-time volley.
Honduras responded in the 40th minute after the Americans failed to deal with a corner kick. The ball bounced in the air, and Garcia hit a left-footed overhead shot that left Howard with no chance.
The second half saw both sides trade early chances. It looked as though Honduras had broken the deadlock in the 56th minute, but the linesman correctly waved for offside. The best second-half chance for the Americans came in the 66th minute when Dempsey got wide of the defense but had his shot blocked by Garcia’s outstretched leg.
As the clock ticked, the Americans increasingly struggled as the Hondurans attacked in waves. That paid off for the home team in the 79th minute. Howard and defender Geoff Cameron timidly went for a pass from Maynor Figueroa. The uncertainty allowed Oscar Boniek García to get to the ball first and send a low cross to Bengtson for a finish on the open net.
The U.S. entered the match with a 12-3-3 record against Honduras. Dempsey surpassed Brian McBride to reach third on the U.S. career scoring charts with 31 goals in 92 appearances.
The match was the first of the Hexagonal round, the final stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Six teams will face each opponent twice – home and away – for a total of 10 matches. The top three teams automatically qualify with the fourth-place team facing the top qualifier in Oceania.
The U.S. will next face Costa Rica on March 22 in Commerce City, Colo. A trip to Mexico will follow four day later.