The USA’s World Cup Qualifying series with Honduras has served up memorable matches at every turn. Ahead of USA-Honduras, presented by Volpi Foods, take a photographic look back at the series with the players that were heroes along the way.
Following a wild set of matches in 2002 FIFA World Cup Qualifying the U.S. earned two comeback wins during the 2009 Hexagonal, sending the team on its way to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Current MNT captain Michael Bradley and other players look back on the most recent series during the 2013 Hexagonal.
Feb. 6, 2013 – Honduras 2, USA 1
The U.S. opened the Final Round of 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying with a difficult away fixture in Honduras. Wanting to get off on the right foot, the home side elected for an early afternoon kickoff, when the sun and heat were at their highest, to give Los Catrachos more of a home-field advantage.
“It was a brutal day,” remembers MNT captain Michael Bradley. “It was hot as could be, humid and this was back when there were still single fixture dates. I believe this was a game on a Wednesday where we had all played on the weekend and were returning right after the game to play another game with our club teams. As usual, we met in Miami on Sunday or Monday, flew down to Honduras, trained once in the stadium and then played.
“Those fixtures were always whirlwinds, and when you add in the fact that most of us were playing in places where in February the weather was cool [eight of the 11 starters were playing in Europe at the time], it meant that it was a real challenge in terms of the conditions and getting ourselves ready. It was early afternoon, very hot and the grass there is traditionally left very long and is slow and thick. We knew from the beginning it was going to be a tough day.”
As expected, the early moments of the match saw Honduras on the front foot, but the U.S. sustained the pressure as they served up a few opportunities that Tim Howard easily dealt with.
“We were having to defend and take care of some things, but I don’t think it was huge chance after huge chance. Nonetheless, they had the upper hand and they were looking at home to really be aggressive. We were able to withstand some pressure and quite honestly you’re always going to have to do that on the road in qualifying.”
The U.S. picked its moments and came close when Eddie Johnson crossed for Jozy Altidore who’s flick-on redirection grazed just over the bar in the 29th minute.
Two more Honduras chances came just after the half-hour mark when Roger Espinoza made his way into the box and pushed the ball past Tim Howard, only to have Fabian Johnson clear the danger away from lurking Honduras forward Jerry Bengtson. Moments later, Espinoza forced a turnover at the back which led to Mario Martínez blasting a shot that Howard had to punch over the bar.
Against that pressure, the U.S. found the go-ahead goal in the 36th minute. A small bit of possession in midfielder resulted in Jermaine Jones sending a weighted ball into the area, where Clint Dempsey timed his run before volleying past Noel Valladares and inside the left post.
“There are going to be periods where you have to deal with the home team really being aggressive and coming at you and you have to understand in those moments how to take care of things and still not give anything away,” Bradley said. “I thought we were able to do that and obviously it ends with the fact that we were able to get a really good goal to go up 1-0.”
While the U.S. looked to take the lead into halftime, the goal instead galvanized Honduras, who struck back three minutes later. Following a corner kick, defender Victor Bernárdez chased down a ball in the right corner and crossed for Maynor Figueroa. The center back chested the ball up in the air where Juan Carlos García rose to slam home a bicycle kick inside the top left post.
“To give away a goal right after we went up 1-0 and right before halftime was not ideal in any way. In a game like that if you can take your goal into halftime and they’ll have a little bit of time to regroup and get yourselves ready for the second half. That makes a big difference.”
Halftime did little to quell the Honduras attack. Oscar Boniek García fired just wide of Howard’s goal in the 52nd minute and what looked like the go-ahead goal was waved off when Carlo Costly was judged to be offside.
“We couldn’t make a play. Obviously the longer the game goes, the heat and travel certainly come into play. In the end, those are thing we’ve all dealt with before and to not be able to walk out of there with a point was very disappointing.”
Tiring in the afternoon heat, the U.S. mostly bunkered in hopes of stealing a point, but finally conceded what would stand as the game-winner in the 79 the minute. A worn-out U.S. defense saw Figueroa slip Boniek Garcia through before sliding for Jerry Bengtson who finished into an empty net.
“I just remember us being slow to react all afternoon and a little bit sluggish and you see that on both of the goals we gave away.”
June 18, 2013 – USA 1, Honduras 0
The U.S. rebounded from that opening defeat, earning a 1-0 victory against Costa Rica in the famous SnowClasico on March 22 before an historic 0-0 draw away to Mexico four days later. Entering the summer set of qualifiers, the MNT used a late goal from Brad Evans to earn a 1-0 win at Jamaica on June 7, and goals from Eddie Johnson and Jozy Altidore to take a 2-0 home win vs. Panama on June 13.
Those four results gave the MNT plenty of momentum going into the June 18 date against Honduras in Salt Lake City, with a win vs. Los Catrachos likely setting the U.S. up for qualification come the September international window.
Playing at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, the U.S. pressed the attack early on, with Clint Dempsey’s seventh-minute header going just wide of the right post. Moments later, Fabian Johnson exploited the left flank and crossed for Eddie Johnson whose one-time effort was only kept out with a sprawling save from Valladares.
A scoreless first half led to more U.S. chances in the second, with Dempsey leading the way.
The veteran forward’s snap header was well-saved in the 56th minute. Four minutes later, a wild scramble in the box concluded with Dempsey heading the ball down where Honduras midfielder Wilson Palacios committed a clear hand ball, yet avoided a penalty kick. In the 70th minute, Graham Zusi crossed for Dempsey again, but his glancing header was again kept out by Valladares.
Just as it looked like the goal might not fall for the U.S., Dempsey and Johnson worked a quick combination up the left, before centering for Altidore who coolly finished to the back post, scoring in his fourth-consecutive U.S. match.
The MNT locked down and closed out the game, and that September defeated Mexico 2-0 in Columbus to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.Read more
As an artist and a soccer fan, Jason Seife has always seen a connection between the two disciplines.
“Although sport is not something that is initially thought of as a creative field, it truly is,” he said. “It’s something that you work very hard at, you put yourself out there, and it’s a way of expressing yourself. That’s what art is, that’s what music is. It’s all intertwined.”
But it wasn’t until a meeting with U.S. Men’s National Team player Alejandro Bedoya where that connection became more personal.
“He is actually a close friend of mine and a collector of my work,” said Seife, who is based in Miami. “He’s someone that I met through the art world, but we hit it off on a more personal level, both being from South Florida. Aside from being a soccer lover, having a personal connection with Bedoya has brought me even closer to the team and makes me even more stoked to be a part of this project.”
The project Seife is referring to is an exclusive poster he was selected by U.S. Soccer to create for every fan in attendance at the USA-Honduras World Cup Qualifier, presented by Volpi Foods, on March 24 in San Jose, Calif.
The collectible poster is on the back side of the card stunt each ticketed fan will receive when they get to their seat in Avaya Stadium. The card stunt will display red and blue seating sections that spell out “USA” and “One Nation, One Team”. All fans are encouraged to arrive early to participate for the full-stadium card stunt, which will take place during the Star-Spangled Banner before the game kicks off.
Seife’s artwork, inspired by traditional Heriz rug design, deftly renders intricate, colorful patterns with a mixture of acrylic and ink. While the paintings utilize familiar motifs in Persian rug design like leaves and geometric shapes, Seife introduces colors and patterns not normally associated with the heavy textiles, creating his own interpretations that reflect his mood and thoughts while creating his pieces.
“My work is inspired by old, traditional, Persian rugs,” he said. “A lot of people are attracted to my work because it’s something that’s not only aesthetically pleasing, but has meaning behind it. As an artist, you have to find a balance between what’s meaningful to you but is also pleasing to the eye. That’s how I came to this type of work, and I’m learning more about it as I go along.”
“For this piece, the type of rug I was inspired by was given to warriors and their families after they would go to battle. It was considered almost a royal symbol to commemorate their accomplishments. I felt it was good match for this piece because symbolically, we are going to battle and there’s a lot on the line for this game. Although this piece will be given to fans before the “battle”, to me this will celebrate what is about to happen and how I feel the outcome will be.”
When creating the poster for the U.S. Men’s National Team, Seife imagined the large center medallion representing the obstacle that is in front of the U.S. MNT at this moment in the qualifying campaign, and the colorful ink reflects the pride in red, white and blue millions of Americans plan to show as they support the team on March 24.
“With a very important three points on the line, I wanted the artwork to reflect the USA’s pride and resilience when our backs are against the wall,” Seife said. “If I had to sum this piece up in one word, it would be unity. No matter what the outcome is, what we can take away from this is that we’re coming together in a challenging time and we need to fight to get the outcome we want.”
Below is the full Q&A with Seife about his inspiration for the piece, his heritage, and connection to soccer.
ussoccer.com: Tell us more about your background and your specific craft? When did you get started?
Jason Seife: “I was born in Miami, but my parents emigrated from Cuba. Since a very young age, I was inclined to the fine arts. I had an elementary school teacher that realized I had talent and she suggested that I apply to a program specific to the arts. From then, I started realizing how passionate I felt about it. Now, my main craft leans more towards fine arts and painting, but I also do some graphic design work.”
What is your connection to soccer and specifically to the USMNT?
JS: “I have a lot of different connections to the sport and the USMNT, starting by simply being a huge fan of soccer in general. I’ve played since I was a kid, and continue to play for fun to this day. On a deeper level, I have a personal connection to U.S. MNT midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. He is actually a close friend of mine and a collector of my work. He’s someone that I met through the art world, but we hit it off on a more personal level, both being from South Florida. Aside from being a soccer lover, having a close friendship with Bedoya has brought me even closer to the team and makes me even more stoked to be a part of this project.”
What does it mean to you to have millions of Americans support their country through your artwork?
JS: “It’s extremely humbling. Any part that I can have in supporting our country is an amazing feeling. It’s great to know that my artwork has put me in a position where I could do something like this, where I can lend a small hand in bringing the U.S. together. However, it’s a lot of pressure. It’s something that I deeply care about so I wouldn’t do something just for the sake of doing it. It would have to be a situation where I felt I could bring something substantial to the table. This opportunity is something that I don’t take lightly, and I’m excited to be a part of this. I hope that the fans will appreciate it.”
Can you expand on your inspiration for this piece?
JS: “The meaning behind the design stems from being an immigrant in this country. Having Cuban, Lebanese and Syrian backgrounds, I understand that diversity and the mix of different cultures is what makes this country so great. It was cool to be able to bring a bit of my heritage and background into it, and then put a twist on it to make it American in its own way.
My work is inspired by old, traditional, Persian rugs. A lot of people are attracted to my work because it’s something that’s not only aesthetically pleasing, but it has meaning behind it. As an artist, you have to find a balance between what’s meaningful to you but is also pleasing to the eye. That’s how I came to this type of work, and I’m learning more about it as I go along.
For this piece, the type of rug I was inspired by was given to warriors and their families after they would go to battle. It was considered almost a royal symbol to commemorate their accomplishments. I felt it was good match for this piece because symbolically, we are going to battle and there’s a lot on the line for this game. Although this piece will be given to fans before the “battle”, to me this will celebrate what is about to happen and how I feel the outcome will be.”
What message are you looking to convey to the team and the fans through your art?
JS: “If I had to sum this piece up in one word, it would be unity. If you look at the design, you’ll notice that every single line ties into the next one. The team is on the field, the crowd is in the stands, the fans are watching at home, but at the end of the day we’re all tied in together supporting the same cause in unison. No matter what the outcome is, what we can take away from this is that we’re coming together in a time when our backs are against the wall and we need to fight to get the outcome we want. There’s a lot going on in our country right now that is separating people, so it’s always great when we have sporting events like this that bring people together from all sorts of different places.”
How do you believe sports and art are tied together?
JS: “Although sport is not something that is initially thought of as a creative field, it truly is. It’s something that you work very hard at, you put yourself out there, and it’s a way of expressing yourself. That’s what art is, that’s what music is. It’s all intertwined.
Stylized black and white photos from the U.S. Men's National Team training session on March 22 in San Jose, Calif. The MNT is preparing to take on Honduras with hopes to earn what will be a critical three points in their World Cup Qualifying campaign. The match take place on March 24 in San Jose's Avaya Stadium. Coverage of USA-Honduras, presented by Volpi Foods, begins at 7:30 p.m. PT on FS1, UniMas and UDN. Fans can also follow the game live on Facebook and Twitter at @ussoccer and @ussoccer_esp.Read more
No matter which country you’re talking about, qualifying for the World Cup has never been simple. Every four years, difficult conditions on the road, injuries and simply bad runs of form test teams on their quest to reach the world’s biggest sporting event.
One of only seven nations to appear at each of the last seven FIFA World Cups, the U.S. Men’s National Team has shown a collective will to win in the tough moments. It’s a character trait that has come to define the MNT, according to three-time World Cup veteran Earnie Stewart.
“It has to do a lot with our culture that once the flag goes up and the national anthem is sung, it doesn’t really matter how you got there. Everyone knows what’s on the line.” he told ussoccer.com. “One of the things that we’ve always had is character and team spirit, and that can take you very, very far.”
In 2001, the U.S. ran out to a 4-0-1 start in the Final Round of qualifying only to lose three straight matches, leaving their qualification to Korea/Japan in serious doubt with two games left. The MNT hosted Jamaica on Matchday 9, knowing that a loss against The Reggae Boyz would end their qualifying hopes.
“It was nerve-wracking going into that game, but I do remember that we came together as a team,” Stewart said. “When adversity is there, you’ve got to make sure you’re all together because no one is going to help you.”
Less than a month after the Sept. 11 attacks and on the day the nation began military operations in Afghanistan, the U.S. put in an inspired team performance, using a Joe-Max Moore brace – an early header and an 81st minute penalty kick – to earn a 2-1 win. Thanks to other results in the group, the team went from the possibility of missing out to actually qualifying for the World Cup.
“We kept things to ourselves and to the circle we could influence, and that began with us. We made sure that we were okay with each other. When you stick together, it’s so much more gratifying when you do get those results and qualify.”
In the midst of his third qualifying cycle, MNT captain Michael Bradley has been through plenty of ups and downs and vividly remembers bumps in the road on the way to the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups.
“We all get this idea that you’re going to have to suffer. There’s a moment or two in every qualifying campaign where you’re looking at things and understanding that you’re at a really important time and the pressure is on to get a result.”
One of those moments came at the start of the 2013 Hexagonal, when the U.S. opened with a 2-1 defeat on a hot and muggy day away to Friday’s opponents Honduras. Losing on the road in qualifying is nothing out of the ordinary, but things were made more difficult by the fact that U.S. faced Costa Rica at home and Mexico away in its next two matches.
Instead of buckling, the team again showed resolve by gutting out an unforgettable 1-0 victory in the Snowclasico against Los Ticos before going on the road to earn an historic 0-0 draw at Mexico days later, carrying that momentum all the way through the remainder of the Final Round.
The MNT has even been here during the current qualifying cycle.
Almost exactly a year ago, the U.S. faced another one of those difficult moments. After a 2-0 away defeat to Guatemala on Matchday 3 of the Semifinal Round, the MNT had to turn around and face Los Chapines four days later at home in Columbus. A loss would have almost surely knocked the U.S. out of contention for the Final Round of qualifying, but the team answered the call again, rebounding with a convincing 4-0 win.
“We had to beat Guatemala and we did it,” said MNT defender and goal scorer that night, Geoff Cameron. “You have ups and downs throughout qualifying. That’s a given. You have good moments and you have bad moments. Right now we kind of dug ourselves a little bit of a hole, but we should be fine. If we can perform very well Friday night and show that we can play with confidence and play our game plan, we should be okay.”
With zero points from its first two Final Round matches, the MNT is here again. According to Bradley, the players clearly recognize the importance of getting three points on Friday against Honduras.
“it never goes perfectly to plan, and in those moments you have to have a group that embraces that, understands the situation and knows while we may have let ourselves down with a performance or two in terms of putting ourselves in this situation, it’s still very much reality. It’s a reality we see time and again. The more guys you have that understand that and in these moments can step on the field and go for it in a fearless way, that makes a difference.”Read more