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.