The USA’s World Cup Qualifying series with Honduras has served up memorable matches at every turn. After a wild set of matches in 2002 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Honduras missed out on the 2005 Hexagonal meaning the two sides wouldn’t meet again until the Final Round of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra delivered the game-winning goal in the MNT’s 2-1 home victory on June 6, 2009 in Chicago, while Conor Casey stepped up with a brace to help lift the USA to a 3-2 away victory and qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup on Oct. 10, 2009 in San Pedro Sula.
June 6, 2009 – USA 2, Honduras 1
With seven points from its first three Final Round qualifiers, the U.S. began a busy summer schedule that featured two World Cup Qualifying matches before taking part in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa and July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The MNT arrived in Chicago on the heels of a 3-1 defeat at Costa Rica days earlier and looked to the home match against Honduras -- just steps away from U.S. Soccer headquarters at Soldier field – as a chance to set things right before jetting off to South Africa.
Having begun his professional career playing at Soldier Field with the Chicago Fire, the game was a homecoming of sorts for U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra, but as he led the team out of the tunnel that night, the match might have felt like it was being played in San Pedro Sula instead.
Carlos Bocanegra leads the U.S. MNT onto the Soldier Field pitch on June 6, 2009 vs. Honduras (ISI Photos)
“Honestly the atmosphere was unbelievable,” Bocanegra remembered. “Almost sold out and there were more Honduran fans than U.S., but it didn’t bother us. We always want to play in front of big crowds and a great atmosphere like that.”
The atmosphere might not have bothered the U.S. team, but it certainly galvanized Honduras early. Just five minutes in, Carlos Pavón forced a U.S. turnover in the center circle and quickly transitioned towards goal. Driving at full speed, Pavon lost his footing, but not before the ball made its way to Carlo Costly whose blast beat Tim Howard inside the lower left corner
Carlo Costly celebrates his early goal vs. the United States (ISI Photos)
“Everyone thinks, ‘oh, a Central American team is coming up to play you on your home soil and it should be easy.’ Whether they pack it in and make it difficult or they’re up for the game and you’re a little off that day, they can try and punish you and they got on us early.”
The goal awoke the U.S. team, whose pressure resulted in chances for Conor Casey and Jonathan Spector that went begging.
Finally, in the 41st minute Oguchi Onyewu launched a long ball over the top which skipped wildly into the box before striking the hand of Honduras defender Mario Beata.
Timing his run to beat the offside trap, Landon Donovan shot his arms up in an appeal to referee Mauricio Morales, who instinctively pointed to the penalty spot. From there, as he’d done many times before, Donovan calmly stepped up and rocketed his penalty into the top right corner to bring the U.S. level going into halftime.
“Whenever you get a goal before halftime, especially in that kind of situation, it feels like you go with momentum,” Bocanegra said. “You could feel the sense of relief after we’d let a few chances slip by.”
Despite carrying the momentum, the U.S. had another scare early in the second half when an in-swinging corner kick from the left saw Tim Howard only get a touch to the ball. Sailing through the area, Chavez redirected towards goal, but Ricardo Clark was there to clear off the line in the 48th minute.
Tim Howard challenges for a corner kick early in the second half (ISI Photos)
The teams traded back-and-forth chances from distance before the go-ahead goal came from the captain in the 68th minute. Donovan’s corner from the left found Dempsey at the back post, where he nodded across the goal. There to meet it was Bocanegra, who sprawled out inches above the surface to head home the game-winner.
As the game’s intensity picked up so did its physicality, and moments after scoring the eventual game-winner Bocanegra was forced out of the match with a hamstring injury.
Jonathan Spector and Julio Cesar de Leon engage in shirt tugging during the second half (ISI Photos)
The MNT absorbed the pressure from Honduras for the rest of the game and survived one final close call as Chavez broke through in the 83rd minute. Howard charged off his line while Onyewu came through with a desperate tackle, together turning away the danger to give the U.S. the full three points.
“We stuck with it. We were confident. We had a good group of guys who had played together for a while. We had consistency, we complimented each other well and most important we trusted and believed in each other. It unfortunately became our thing to be the comeback kids. We had to do it a lot in the World Cup which is not ideal, but we fought and clawed back to get the win and stay on the right track.”
October 10, 2009 – USA 3, Honduras 2
Following the June 6 win against Honduras, the MNT dropped a narrow 2-1 result at Mexico in August before rebounding with a 2-1 win home to El Salvador and 1-0 victory at Trinidad & Tobago in September. Those late summer results set the side up to clinch qualification with a win when they visited San Pedro Sula on Oct. 10.
Bob Bradley’s starting lineup that night had few surprises, until one read the final name up top: Conor Casey.
Pre-game handshakes at Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula on Oct. 10, 2009 (ISI Photos)
Though a long-time member of the U.S. player pool, Casey never had a consistent run with the Men’s National Team. Somewhat surprised he was called up for the camp, the powerful target forward was caught off guard when he found out he was starting the day before.
“I hadn’t started many games with the team. I was pretty new coming in and I don’t really remember exactly what the reasoning behind it was, but I was definitely surprised and excited to get the nod” Casey said. “I went from just getting called in pretty quickly as a surprise to a surprise that I was starting in a game where we could clinch our berth in the World Cup.”
Honduran fans surround the player tunnel prior to kickoff (ISI Photos)
Playing a Honduras side well in contention for their first World Cup ticket since 1982, the match was played in the backdrop of the ongoing military coup that had overtaken the country.
“That was the first time people had been allowed out of their houses that late at night in weeks, so the atmosphere and whole energy in the stadium was really wild.”
After trading a few first-half chances, the teams went into the locker room tied 0-0 and feeling that a single goal could punch the USA’s ticket to South Africa.
Casey and his teammates received a rude awakening early in the second half when Julio Cesar de Leon – scorer of the lone goal for Honduras in the same qualifying tie eight years earlier – rifled a free kick past Tim Howard in the 47th minute.
Julio Cesar de Leon scored the opening goal in the 47th minute (ISI Photos)
The U.S. had already come back from a deficit to earn points three times during the 2009 Hexagonal and pushed ahead looking for the equalizer. It took only eight minutes, and just like Donovan’s leveler in June, it came as a result of a long ball over the top from Onyewu.
Serving from the right side of defense, the hulking defender found Charlie Davies at the top of the area, who nodded towards the penalty spot, where Casey alertly challenged goalkeeper Noel Valladares.
Conor Casey challenges Noel Valladares to pull the U.S. level in the 55th minute (ISI Photos)
“I think it came off my back. It was a long ball into the box and I went up to challenge, and I think I was just able to get to it before the ‘keeper. I kind of felt it redirect, but didn’t know which direction it was going in. I spun and caught a glimpse of it just as it crossed the line with no flags raised.”
“It was my first goal for the National Team, and luckily I got to see it go in.”
Conor Casey celebrates his first goal of the match in the 55th minute (ISI Photos)
The goal silenced the home crowd, and the U.S. gladly took the momentum. Eleven minutes later he added his second and final international goal to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead.
“We had won the ball in our defensive end. Landon broke and I was able to get between a couple defenders. He played me a nice ball in, I was alone with the ‘keeper and he went down early. I was able to slide it by him, and I just remember running over and jumping into all the guys on the sideline. At that moment we would have been through. It was pure joy for us.”
Conor Casey celebrates with U.S. substitutes following his second goal in the 66th minute (ISI Photos)
Casey’s contributions continued in the 71st minute when he drew a foul just outside the area. Riding the wave of momentum, Donovan caught Valladares wrong-footed as he curled his effort around the Honduras wall and into the top right corner.
Landon Donovan gets airborne to celebrate his 71st minute free kick to give the U.S. a 3-1 lead (ISI Photos)
“At that moment we felt it was sealed -- we were definitely going to the World Cup.”
Honduras had other ideas. With nothing to lose, Los Catrachos poured forward and pulled within a goal after a scramble in the box resulted in de Leon finishing his second of the match in the 78th minute.
That goal made for a frantic finish, and gassed from his work up top Casey was replaced by Benny Feilhaber in the 84th minute.
“Being on the sidelines, I just remember them being really on top of us those last 10 minutes. It was going from the general sense that we’d had it clinched, but they had nothing to lose and they were just throwing everything at us.”
In the 87th minute, that pressure set up Honduras’ equalizing chance when a Ramon Nuñez free kick bounced up in the box and hit the hand of U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden. Stepping up to the penalty spot was Pavon – the leading scorer in the 2009 Hexagonal and the man who tallied a penalty kick in 3-2 away win for Honduras in Washington D.C. eight years earlier.
The country’s all-time leading goal scorer seemed a sure bet to convert, but instead he blasted his penalty over the bar.
Minutes later the final whistle blew and celebrations ensued as the U.S. was on the way to the 2010 FIFA World Cup and Casey was the clear Man of the Match.
“It was an awesome moment for me. I hadn’t been with the team that much when they were going through the qualifying process, so to be able to show up and help in such a big game and get your country to the World Cup was very special for me."
“It was typical Conor Casey, just coming in and bruising people around, what he’d done his whole career,” Bocanegra said. “It was another case of having a good group together, and you could plug people in like Conor. He knew what it was all about, he’d been around the National Team programs for a number of years and getting back to the old ways: fighting, scratching, doing whatever it takes to get the victory.
“It’s not always pretty, but especially when you go away for qualifying in Central America, it doesn’t need to be pretty. It needs to be effective, and that’s exactly what it was.”
WATCH: Conor Casey's Man of the Match Performance Qualifies U.S. for 2010 FIFA World CupRead more
â€¢ Conor Casey Scores First Two International Goals
â€¢ Donovan Nets Game-Winner on Free Kick in the 71st Minute
â€¢ U.S. Faces Costa Rica on Wednesday at RFK Stadium with a Chance to Finish Atop Hexagonal Table
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (Oct. 10, 2009) â€” The U.S. Menâ€™s National Team qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa in dramatic fashion with a 3-2 win against Honduras with five goals scored and a penalty missed by Honduras in a heart-stopping second half.
More than 45,000 Honduran supporters rocked Estadio OlÃmpico in San Pedro Sula, uniting behind their national team despite the domestic political strife dominating international headlines. After a scoreless first half that saw both teams shooting off-target, the second half turned into an instant classic with the U.S. getting the deciding goal in the 71st minute from a free kick by midfielder Landon Donovan.
Forward Conor Casey provided the heroics for the U.S., scoring the first two goals of his international career in the 55th and 66th minutes, and setting up the Donovan freekick. It was Caseyâ€™s third appearance in the 2010 qualifying cycle, and the 15th of his career.
The Honduras faithful thought their side would draw even in the 87th minute when the referee awarded a penalty kick in their favor. Carlos Pavon, the all-time leading scorer for Honduras with 55 career goals, shockingly blasted his penalty over the crossbar. Despite the misfortune, the Honduran crowd showed their class by offering the U.S. team a warm ovation following the match.
The U.S. team returns from Honduras to face Costa Rica at RFK Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 8 p.m. with first place in CONCACAF qualifying on the line. More than 20,000 tickets have been sold for the match that will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and Galavision. Tickets are available at ussoccer.com. To finish first in the group, the U.S. needs to maintain its one-point lead in the standings ahead of Mexico, who travels to Trinidad & Tobago.
â€œThis was the most important game in qualifying because it was the one that qualified us for South Africa 2010,â€ said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. â€œThe celebration was a very good one because when you have a group that has come together, that has worked hard, that has grown, when theyâ€™ve accomplished something itâ€™s a special feeling. Tonight we can all share that feeling.â€Â
After Honduras got things started with a handful of shots in the first few minutes of the game, the U.S. had the first dangerous opportunity in the 18th minute on a second consecutive corner kick by Donovan. His in-swinger from the left side bounced once in the middle of the penalty area and skipped to an unmarked Carlos Bocanegra. The bounce was too high for Bocanegra to get on top of and he headed the chance over the crossbar.
Eleven minutes later, Carlo Costly perfectly timed his run to beat the U.S. to a clearance over the heads of the U.S. back line. As he dribbled toward goal, he scuffed his shot just inches wide of Tim Howardâ€™s right post.
Back the other way, the U.S. had their best chance to score of the half. Casey held the ball just across midfield on the right side and sent Stuart Holden, who was making his first World Cup qualifying start, free down the line. With plenty of time, Holden sent a pinpoint cross to Davies, whose header from eight yards was saved by Noel Valladares reaching back across his body. The rebound came right back to Davies, but he hit his follow-up effort above the crossbar.
After a scoreless first half, the complexion of the game changed completely just 20 seconds into the second half. U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu fell and made a clumsy foul that set up a Honduras freekick just a yard outside of the U.S. penalty area. Julio Cesar de Leon took a one-step approach on his right-footed shot that curled over the U.S. wall and under the cross bar, just out of the reach of Howard in the 47th minute.
The U.S. answered eight minutes later with Onyewu getting involved in the goal. The U.S. center back served a 50-yard ball to the top of the penalty area, where Davies won the header and popped the ball high in the air. As it came down at the top of the six yard box, Casey spun in the air as he challenged Valladares for the ball, and he made first contact with the back of his head before the goalkeeper could get a hand on it. The ball bounced once before going into the empty goal.
In the 64th minute, forward David Suazo came on for Honduras and moments later he made a great diagonal run right from left to right. He received the ball in stride before unleashing a shot from the right side of the area to the far post that forced Howard to make his best save of the night with a two-handed parry to keep the ball from curling inside the far post.
In the 66th minute, the U.S. took the lead that it would not relinquish. Onyewu stepped in at the top of the U.S. penalty area to win a through ball, and carried the ball forward before he found Davies available on the left wing at midfield. Davies took the ball across midfield before playing it square to Donovan. Donovan dribbled toward the middle and threaded the defense for Casey who got behind the last defender in the area. Casey faked a shot to get Valladares to go down, and then calmly slotted the ball inside the right post.
A minute later, Jonathan Bornstein nearly doubled the U.S. advantage with a 25-yard blast that Valladares pushed back into play. Holden followed up but his shot from the right was blocked by a defender.
The U.S. continued to put the pressure on, and Casey earned a free kick after de Leon was whistled for a foul 22-yards from goal. Just three yards further from goal than de Leon scored from earlier in the half, Donovan perfectly placed the ball over Ricardo Clark standing at the end of the wall. Valladares was screened, and couldnâ€™t react in time as the shot sailed over his back shoulder in the 71st minute.
Four minutes later, Wilson Palacios played a soft pass to Suazo who was in behind the U.S. defense on the right side. He played a cross in to Pavon who put the ball into the net from point-blank range. The goal was waived off, however, as Pavon was correctly ruled offside, in front of Suazo and the ball when the pass was played into the center.
In the 78th minute, play seemed to stand still as de Leon played Ramon NuÃ±ez into the U.S. box with two other Honduran players in an offside position. NuÃ±ez dribbled forward to the endline to bring his teammates back into play, and dropped the ball back for Suazo. He found de Leon a few yards away on the right side of the penalty area. De Leon took a touch toward the penalty spot before drilling a shot past a drawn-out Howard to cut the U.S. lead to 3-2.
In the 87th minute, a NuÃ±ez free kick bounced in the area before coming up and hitting Holdenâ€™s left arm. Referee Roberto Moreno immediately pointed to the spot, and Pavon â€“ who converted a penalty against the U.S. on Sept. 1, 2001, in Washington, D.C., in the last U.S. loss on home soil â€“ missed the chance to equalize.
The U.S. held on for the next five minutes of regulation plus four minutes of added time to become the first CONCACAF team to win in Honduras during the 2010 qualifying cycle.
Honduras was previously 8-0-0 at home in qualifying for South Africa, and with three goals scored the U.S. matched the total that Honduras had allowed in their prior eight home games. The U.S. is now 5-3-1 on the road in qualifying, the best mark in CONCACAF heading into Matchday 10.
The match was the fourth time in nine qualifies that the U.S. surrendered the first goal. In those four matches, however, the U.S. has earned 10 of their 19 points with three come-from-behind wins and one come-from-behind tie.
With his goals, Casey became the 20th different player to score a goal for the U.S. in 2009 â€“ the most ever in one year for the team. Donovan, with his pass to Casey on the second goal, set the U.S. single-year assist record with 10 to pass Cobi Jones.
The USA joins Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain and Korea Republic as the only teams who have participated in all six World Cup since 1990, including secured berths to South Africa in 2010.
Fans who wish to follow the U.S. team to South Africa are encouraged to join U.S. Soccer Supporters Club, the official fan membership program for fans of the U.S. Menâ€™s and Womenâ€™s National Teams. U.S. Soccer SC members will have priority status to purchase 2010 FIFA World Cup tickets through U.S. Soccer, with access ahead of the general public.
Match: United States vs. Honduras
Date: October 10, 2009
Competition: FIFA World Cup Qualifier â€“ Final Round
Venue: Estadio OlÃmpico Metropolitano â€“ San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Kickoff: 8 p.m. MT
Weather: 80 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1Â Â Â 2Â Â Â F
USAÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 0Â Â Â 3Â Â Â 3
HONÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 0Â Â Â Â 2Â Â Â 2
HON â€“ Julio Cesar de Leon (unassisted) 47th minute
USA â€“ Conor Casey (Charlie Davies) 55
USA â€“ Conor Casey (Landon Donovan) 66
USA â€“ Landon Donovan (unassisted) 71
HON â€“ Julio Cesar de Leon (David Suazo) 78
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-Jonathan Spector, 5-Oguchi Onyewu, 3-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), 12-Jonathan Bornstein; 7-Stuart Holden (6-Steve Cherundolo, 90+3), 13-Ricardo Clark, 4-Michael Bradley, 10-Landon Donovan; 9-Charlie Davies (17-Jozy Altidore, 79), 8-Conor Casey (16-Benny Feilhaber, 84)
Subs not used: 11-Kenny Cooper, 14-Jose Torres, 15-Jimmy Conrad, 18-Brad Guzan
Head Coach: Bob Bradley
HON: 18-Noel Valladares; 16-Mauricio Sabillon, 2-Osman Chavez, 3-Maynor Figueroa, 12-Emilio Izaguirre; 17-Edgard Alvarez (11-David Suazo, 64), 6-Hendry Thomas (7-Ramon Nunez, 75), 8-Wilson Palacios, 10-Julio Cesar de Leon (15-Walter Martinez, 80); 13-Carlo Costly, 9-Carlos Pavon
Subs not used: 1-Ricardo Canales, 5-Erick Norales, 14-Boniek Garcia, 4-Melvin Valladares,
Head Coach: Reinaldo Rueda
Stats Summary: USA / HON
Shots: 16 / 13
Shots on Goal: 7 / 5
Saves: 3 / 4
Corner Kicks: 5 / 5
Fouls: 12 / 16
Offside: 1 / 2
HON â€“ Osman Chavez (caution) 47th minute
HON â€“ Maynor Figueroa (caution) 73
USA â€“ Jonathan Bornstein (caution) 85
Referee: Roberto Moreno (PAN)
Assistant Referee 1: Daniel Williamson (PAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Jaime Smith (PAN)
Fourth Official: Jose Luis Rodriguez (PAN)
ussoccer.com Man of the Match: