The U.S. came into this first round Hexagonal match looking for a win, and hoping for at least a draw, but they ended up with neither, falling 2-1 to Honduras.
Maybe it was the home field or the sweltering weather, but Honduras quickly settled very comfortably into this match. With Los Catrachos pinging the ball effortlessly around the field, Wigan fullback Maynor Figueroa playing centrally for the home team, shot high in the fourth minute, before Tim Howard was called action less than a minute later. Howard handled a low shot from Mario Martinez, set up by a fine cross-field pass from his opposite wing Boniek Garcia.
The Costa Rican referee was, as the saying goes, letting the teams play, but the game never got out of hand. Carlo Costly tested the untried U.S centerbacks, getting behind Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez, only to be flagged offside.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann pulled a surprise when he started the towering L.A. Galaxy man Gonzalez, in place of team captain Carlos Bocanegra. The coach said later, “we believe Omar is ready for the international level and at some point you have to throw him into the cold water.” Klinsmann said that, “I think overall he’s done well,” adding “The back-line is not the reason we lost.”
Many a player has rebounded from a rough international debut to go on and have a long successful career representing their country, and hopefully Gonzalez will join that group. Today, the big man simply wasn’t sharp. On the first Honduran goal, Victor Bernardez and Gonzalez battled for a header, when the ball went to the corner Bernardez chased, while Gonzalez retreated to the center. Bernardez’ cross was headed back to JC Garcia, who scored on a brilliant bicycle kick.
Not a huge error, who could have foreseen Garcia’s fabulous goal, but it made a difference. On the second goal, Boniek Garcia split Tim Howard and Geoff Cameron, and the ball rolled across the U.S goalmouth. Gonzalez froze and Jerry Bengston scored into the empty net. The 79th minute goal from Bengston left the tired U.S. team fighting an increasingly lost cause.
Boniek Garcia and Mario Martinez seemed to have acres of space on the wings at times, and the U.S. spent most of their time chasing the game. Afterwards Michael Bradley said this is “normal,” in an away Hex match. “When you come here you’re going to have to deal with the other team having the ball a lot,” Bradley said deliberately. “They’re able to use the crowd, they’re able to use the field and they’re able to use their quality.” Bradley explained.
The Americans had taken the lead in the 36th minute, against the run of play. Clint Dempsey skillfully volleyed home a superb Jermaine Jones lob, but the lead would not last.
Just four minutes after Deuce struck J.C. Garcia answered with his bit of magic. It was no less than the home team deserved. The U.S attack appeared disjointed throughout, never really firing on all cylinders.
There would be no U.S. answer to Bengston’s goal, no last minute heroics, just an opening match loss. Klinsmann pointed out that it is a long haul, the Hex, but it will begin to seem a lot shorter if the Yanks don’t take all three points in Colorado from Costa Rica on March 22.
USA: Tim Howard, Timmy Chandler, Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, Fabian Johnson, Danny Williams, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, Jozy Altidore: Noel Vallardes, JC Garcia, Victor Bernardez, Maynor Figueroa, Arnold Peralta, Roger Espinoza, Luis Garrido, Mario Martinez, Boniek Garcia, Jerry Bengston, Carlo Costly
Honduras: Noel Vallardes, JC Garcia, Victor Bernardez, Maynor Figueroa, Arnold Peralta, Roger Espinoza, Luis Garrido, Mario Martinez, Boniek Garcia, Jerry Bengston, Carlo Costly