February 6, 2013
Honduras downs U.S. in hexagonal opener on Bengtson's goal, 2-1
SAN PEDRO SULA -- Striker Jerry Bengtson took advantage of a defensive lapse to break a tie in the 79th minute and boost Honduras to a 2-1 victory over the United States in the opening round of the CONCACAF hexagonal in World Cup qualifying on Wednesday.
|Clint Dempsey scored his 31st international goal for the U.S., but it wasn't enough.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The win boosted the Hondurans into the final-round lead with six points, pending the outcome of the Mexico-Jamaica and Panama-Costa Rica matches later in the day.
It was the first time in five World Cup matches that Los Catrachos defeated the Americans on their own soil in a qualifier, breaking a four-game winless streak (0-3-1) against their hosts.
It also was the first time the U.S. lost the opening game of the hexagonal round.
U.S. soccer fans and media will have a field day second-guessing some of coach Jurgen Klinsmann's lineup decisions, such as starting Gonzalez and Cameron in the middle instead of using team captain and veteran Carlos Bocanegra.
The absence of midfielder-forward Landon Donovan, who has taken a sabbatical from soccer, had to hurt the American attack, which was sporadic, at best.
"There were too many mistakes and too many players today just didn't reach their usual potential," Klinsmann said. "It is really difficult to come away with a win here if you do not have everybody 100 percent at their limits."
The Hondurans can thank Bengtson, who plays for the New England Revolution, for the win as he snapped a 1-1 deadlock amid confusion on the U.S. backline at Estadio Olimpico. Oscar Boniek Garcia beat Geoff Cameron on the right side of the penalty area and sent a short pass to Bengtson, who beat his man, Omar Gonzalez, connecting from six yards past goalkeeper Tim Howard.
"It was individual mistakes that happened," Klinsmann said. "We had problems closing down the passing lanes."
Bengtson and several of his teammates celebrated the goal by getting on their hands and knees and crawling on the ground.
The U.S. had a last gasp as Gonzalez headed a corner kick over the crossbar just before fulltime was called.
It was a deserved win for the hosts, who played a spirited game, finding holes in the U.S. defense -- backline and team.
The Hondurans enjoyed the territorial advantage in the opening minutes in the game, played in 84-degree heat. Garcia, who plies his trade with the Houston Dynamo, sent a shot wide left in the second minute before Mario Martinez, who plays for the Seattle Sounders, fired a shot that looked more like a cross that U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard was able to hold two minutes later.
Martinez tried a long-range attempt in the 22nd minute, but that effort sailed wide left.
Slowly, but surely as the opening half wore on the U.S. started to find itself offensively.
Eddie Johnson, a forward who was surprise starter at left midfield, was the creator of two of the Americans' early chances. Geoff Cameron headed his 18th-minute corner kick over the crossbar and Jozy Altidore kicked a Johnson feed wide right in the 29th minute.
Midfielder Roger Espinoza made the U.S. sweat as he found some room down the left side, penetrated into the penalty area and sent a short pass to Arnold Peralta that defender Fabian Jones managed to clear out of harm's way in the 31st minute.
Two minutes later, Espinoza was at it again. This time he launched a 19-yard blast that Howard parried out of bounds for a corner kick.
The U.S. found the range in the 36th minute. Altidore sent the ball back to midfielder Jermaine Jones, who blooped a pass to an onrushing Dempsey on the right side in the penalty area. Dempsey then volleyed the ball past goalkeeper Noel Valladares to the upper left side for his 31st international goal and a 1-0 lead.
It did not take the hosts long to equalize as Juan Carlos Garcia scored off a bicycle kick four minutes later. After U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez cleared the ball over the goal line, a Honduran corner kick that bounded through the penalty area. Victor Bernardez ran the ball down and sent it into the middle of the box to Maynor Figueroa. Garcia gained possession and scored a spectacular goal for a 1-1 deadlock in the 40th minute.
Taking a pass on the right flank, Oscar Boniek Garcia fired a shot wide right of the American goal in the 52nd minute.
After a giveaway by midfielder Michael Bradley, the Hondurans broke quickly and thought they had taken the lead in the 56th minute, but forward Carlo Costly was called offside.
Garcia demonstrated that he could play some defense as well in the 65th minute as he managed to deflect Clint Dempsey's shot from the right side.
Conversely, Figueroa, a defender, came into the attack for the hosts and headed an eight-yard attempt wide let in the 70th minute.
Barely a minute later, Boniek Garcia fired a shot that just missed the woodwork.
Maurice Edu, who replaced Danny Williams at midfield around the hour mark, drew some praised from Klinsmann.
"Things kind of calmed down a bit," he said. "He cleaned more up. He played simple balls. We kept more possession. That's what we were asking for."
Apparently, not enough players heeded Klinsmann's wishes.