That was a huge win by the U.S. men’s team last night in Chicago, as they came produced their first come-from-behind win in qualifying since 1985 to beat a tough Honduras team.
This was a much better performance by the U.S. than Wednesday’s dismal performance in Costa Rica. Coach Bob Bradley must have read STO on Thursday as sent Beasley to the bench and replacing him with Jonathan Bornstein. Jonathan Spector played right back in a new U.S. defense that looked a lot more solid than it did on Wednesday.
Bradley also changed the midfield opting to play four, Dempsey, Clark, Mastroeni and Donovan. This was not one of Mastroeni’s best games, but his half-time replacement, Benny Feilhaber, helped the U.S. regain control of the midfield. One question about Dempsey. When did he become Ronaldo with all the little flicks and tricks? It was Dempsey’s showboating that led to the Honduras goal after only 5 minutes when he lost the ball in midfield to Wilson whose pass allowed Carlos Costly to beat Howard from 22 yards.
“Here we go again,” U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra thought.
“We controlled the game early. We had the first goal, and we had control of the ball, so we were in a position to win,” Honduras captain Amado Guevara said. “But that’s the way soccer is. You lose focus for a couple seconds, and that’s all it takes.”
For the first time in 24 years, the U.S. battled back to win a World Cup qualifier after falling behind. Landon Donovan got the U.S. going when he converted a penalty kick in the 43rd minute and then Bocanegra scored on a diving header off Dempsey’s knock-down header in the 68th minute to give the U.S. three valuable points.
I think our performances the first five games haven’t been great – we’ve been OK,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said, “but the positive is we’re still second and we haven’t yet reached our potential.”
With the victory the U.S. (3-1-1) is second in the final round of North and Central American qualifying with 10 points, two behind Costa Rica (4-1), which won 3-2 at Trinidad and Tobago. El Salvador (1-1-2) is third with five points following a 2-1 victory over visiting Mexico, and Honduras (1-2-1) is fourth with four points, one ahead of Mexico (1-3) and two in front of Trinidad (0-2-2).
The top three nations qualify for next year’s 32-nation field in South Africa, and the No. 4 team goes to a playoff against the fifth-place team in South America for another berth. The U.S. resumes qualifying at Mexico on Aug. 12 before returning home to play El Salvador in September.
Going into this week’s game I was hoping for three points and one step closer to South Africa. That is what we got. It looks like that 12-15 points will be enough to qualify from this group and the U.S. could have that all wrapped up before Labor Day!