• Late Bengtson goal beats United States
• Early Dempsey goal cancelled out by Garcia bicycle kick
Bobby Otter writes:
"Is it fair to say that Honduras is one of the three best teams in the group? And if not, are the US in a huge amount of trouble? Obviously too early, but is Brazil looking doubtful for the US?"
Think it is indeed fair to say that Honduras are a decent young side, who were marginally the better of two rather sloppy teams today. It is too early to say, but the home game against Costa Rica does look like a must-win game now.
Things were looking good after half an hour for the US, as Dempsey finished his chance with a classy run and shot, only to be matched ny an exquisite overhead kick from Garcia.
That said, a 1-1 draw wouldn't have been the end of the world, but then came a breakdown in communication between Gonzalez and Cameron, that allowed the other Garcia to nip between them and set up the USA's first ever loss in a Hexagon opening game. Unfortunately, it rather put the spotlight on Klinsmann's decision to leave out Bocanegra and start Gonzalez, and I'm sure we'll hear plenty more about that and the sequence and make up of the substitutions, in the coming days. In fact here's a fresh opinion that may well be typical of what we can expect:
Thanks for these and other tweets and emails - sorry I didn't get a chance to use them all. Thanks for following the game with me this afternoon. See you next time.
...Gonzalez meets the ocrner but heads it wide, and that will be that.
FINAL SCORE: HONDURAS 2 USA 1
Final thoughts in a minute.
Now Donovan being mentioned as a missing "difference maker". Last chance for the US as they have a central free kick, some 30 yards out. Costly out, Welcome on by the way.
Free kick richets off a HOnduras player for a corner. Zusi will take it...
The US spread the play out wide neatly for Kljestan, but the build up in pressure ends with a tame cross straight to the keeper, with nobody pressuring him.
Honduras take a corner with very little urgency, then send the ball all the way back.
The US have a free kick just inside the Honduras half, which Bradley sends straight to a Honduras defender stepping up. Three minutes to be added on.
A stumbling but persistent Espinoza run ends on the edge of the US box, but Honduras are the more lively side at retrieving the ball as the US try to get the ball forward. All Honduran possession right now.
The US not looking likely to change this outcome at the moment. They're looking pretty tired and the game is getting rather sloppy, which will delight Honduras.
The first commentator mutterings about why Bocanegra didn't play are occurring now, in the wake of those US errors for that goal.
Bengtson is being subbed out, and indeed carried off, which is not good news for New England. Claros in.
That was really poor defending, with everyone indecisive at the heart of the US defense. Now they need to raise the pressure for the final ten minutes, but instead they're dealing with another Costly run towards the heart of the box. Chandler steps across to clear up.
Now Bengtson is down injured and play stops...
The US defense are utterly undone, as the inventive Boniek Garcia sprints between Cameron and Gonzalez and ahead of Howard, to slip the ball across for Bengtson for the simplest of taps home.
Costly tries an inventive hooked ball round Chandler, who he's been annoying, rather than tormenting, all game, but to little effect.
Now Bradley scoops a ball out wide for the overlapping Johnson, but he can't get past the tidy Peralta on the right of the Honduras defense.
Bradley switches play wide to Zusi, but his control lets him down on the right of the box.
You do suspect that if the US are going to get anything out of this game, it'll be through a movement that involves Bradley opening up some space.
No Honduras subs yet.
Decent looking build up play from the US ends up with a knock down to Bradley, who can't quite find the angle for the shot.
Now there's an Eastern Conference parochial chat between Zusi and Boniek Garcia, as the Sporting KC man deposits the Houston Dynamo man on the ground, and earns a talking to from the ref.
Boniek Garcia picks up the ball from Bradley, drops his shoulder on the edge of the box and makes a great angle for a shot that he flashes just past the post with Howard beaten. Uncharacteristic from Bradley.
This game still very much up for grabs, if either side can find another moment of inspiration.
Espinoza is dropping deeper for Honduras, to try and counter the US midfield threat.
Now there's a lovely little piece of trickery by Costly, as he backheels the ball through the legs of Chandler, but his turn to drive the ball across goal is cleared by the first man.
Still Honduras 1 USA 1
The US slowly making the Hondurans work for the ball as their midfield begins to work a little better - the introduction of Kljestan has helped. Let's see how Zusi slots in.
Another corner towards Cameron at the back post, but it's headed clear and Honduras can come forward, though in fairness the US do well to get men back behind the ball, and they retrieve.
That was a really decent look for Dempsey by the way. He might have been better knocking it into a little space for the shot.
Last US sub on - Zusi for Jones.
Kljestan tries to work an opening in the corner but his twists and turns end with him poking the ball out for a goal kick.
Now there's another lovely touch from Bradley to set up Dempsey, but his snap shot is blocked by Garcia for a corner.
Meant to tell you that Edu is in in a straight swap for Williams in the D-mid position. Players looking very tired right now, though Honduras looking the livelier - it's rather relative though.
Kljestan lining up outside - an unfamiliar position recently.
Camera cuts to a rather hot and bothered looking Klinsmann as his defense once again watch a white shirt skip past them to the byline, but the ball is out for a goal kick. Honduras having the better of the second half so far, for sure. Still Honduras 1 USA 1
The US are relieved to have a corner at the other end, but the relief is short-lived as nothing comes of it but a goal kick. Now we have a sub - Kljestan coming on for Eddie Johnson.
Curse of MBM commentator. Cameron swings and misses and Bengtson should have scored. Then a moment later two Honduras attackers look to have raced free of the offside trap and Costly slips the ball into the net past Howard. It's called back immediately, but not before the hosts have made the visitors defense look very shaky.
Now Honduras construct a sharp attack and spread the ball out wide to where Boniek Garcia arrives on the overlap to drive a low shot wide f the near post. He might have been better served driving it in low and hoping for a touch from Bengtson.
And a further note on that American performance - yes, you might expect the defense to be more on the same page at this stage of Klinsmann's reign. But the calculated gamble of bringing in Gonzalez and tying Chandler to the team might prove the correct one long term. Should it have happened sooner? Discuss.
Not exactly. It's not particularly inspiring, but it's been effective enough so far.
As I type that Johnson does well to hold the ball up and tee up the arriving Bradley, whose placed shot deflects off a defender and squirms just past the post.
Bradley pops up repeatedly to try and move the ball simply but quickly in that passing sequence. It breaks down in the Honduras final third, but Klinsmann will be a little happier to see a better passing tempo from his team.
Now a more direct style long ball sees Altidore penalized for bundling over Bernardez. It's Honduras 1 USA 1
Honduras have some early possession that ends, in what's becoming a slightly familiar pattern, in a wayward ball from Martinez that Howard picks up easily. Now it's the US team's turn to play possession ball.
Just looking at the first half highlights, that unfamiliar US back line looked a little ragged with their communication at times, and had Martinez provided more accurate service, or Costly timed his runs better, they could have had more problems.
...Oh and PEEP! we're off again. No subs...
The USA would have been happy enough to be in this position at the start of the game - they weathered a lively, if not hugely threatening start from the Honduras team, then began to slowly ease their way into the game.
At international level, Jones is perhaps more known for his (sometimes questionable) destroyer qualities than his playmaking ones, but he delivered a beautifully weighted chip, that was met by an equally beautifully timed run and volley by Dempsey to open the scoring, just as Honduras were building up momentum for a second sustained phase of pressure.
Arguably there was not a lot that could be done about the leveler, as Garcia's overhead kick was just sublime. Perhaps Figueroa should not have been allowed the header back to him, but really it was something of a goal from nothing from another unlikely source.
In general though, despite losing the lead, the US will feel they're where they need to be if they hope to take something from this game i.e. not chasing it at half time. Let's see what tactical changes Klinsmann has in mind for the second half...
Honduras 1 USA 1
Dempsey can't control a loose ball in the box and Espinoza is back to knock it clear, and that will be that.
Half time thoughts in a moment...
Another Martinez cross, this one low and hard, straks across the box and out for a goal kick. Time for one more US attack?
Bradley's midfield pass is intercepted and the US have some defending to do. But some probing build up play ends with Martinez wasting his final cross by sending it high and long.
Dempsey crashes into Bernardez and play restarts with a drop ball after the referee has stopped to rubberneck the collision. The US trying to sustain a little possession and restore their composure and quieten the crowd a little. Understandably Garcia's goal had them rather excited...
Garcia full of confidence now and he arrives on the overlap down the left to float a cross over that Howard grabs and launches forward. The US will just want to get to half time now.
Corner is sent in too long and then crossed back in, before a cushioned header from Figueroa is met by a fantastic bicycle kick from Garcia that just flashes past a stranded Howard. Brilliantly taken goal. Now then...
Costly tries his own version of a creative chip but it just bounces off Bradley. It's not cleared though and Gonzalez has to make a well-timed tackle for the corner.
Beautiful deft flick over the top of the defense from Jones and Dempsey springs the offside trap to volley the ball home! Just as the visitors were looking under pressure they conjure a truly inventive goal. Great finish by Dempsey, and a wonderful feed by Jones.
A little period of pressure for the hosts as they lift the tempo, with the the US looking ragged. Now Dempsey loses the ball as the US try to push forward and Honduras spring forward again - though Martinez has a rather poor final touch to end the move...
Howard has to tip over a shot from outside the box by Martinez, who's been showing up on both flanks, and here cut in from the right to test the keeper.
Johnson bundled over in the Honduras half and the US will have a free kick central and some 45 yards out. Bradley lofts one in, but it carries all the way through to the keeper. Rather poor delivery.
Suddenly, at the other end, Espinoza does brilliantly at the end of a Honduras break to slot a delicate last minute cutback across goal, forcing Johnson to clear under pressure, with Bengtson looking at a tap in.
Still Honduras 0 USA 0
So neither side really able to keep any sustained pressure going - though with the heat and humidity that's fairly understandable. The US team prepared for this game in Miami to try and be ready for these conditions.
Suddenly a decent attack as Johnson, out wide curls a tempting ball across the box, that Altidore manages to reach and poke just past the far post.
First corner for the USA, and Bradley is given too much space to get a shot off from it. Another corner is the result and Johnson BARRELS in to meet it, but sends a rather wild header over the bar, with the goalkeeper stuck on his line.
Of course you still have to defend. Espinoza swivels on the edge of the box and gets a shot off that Howard has to beat down before claiming.
Game opening up a little now.
Dempsey and Johnson almost combine on the edge of the box to force a shooting opportunity, but a last ditch interception prevents anyone from testing the keeper, after a neat ball from Bradley initiates the move. Definitely a sense that the US want to bring some pressure of their own having weathered the early pressure from Honduras.
US getting forward and some late runners pop up in the box waiting for a Chandler cross. It comes in high and deep and over the head of Eddie Johnson - who has of course chosen this as one of the moments to drift inside from the left. Still Honduras 0 USA 0, but a little more bold from the US
Interestingly, Johnson seems to be taking his turn cycling in and out of the lone front man role, as he and others take turns to drop back and help out in midfield. If the general strategy is conservative, it's effective enough, without being pretty, but the US can't afford to let the Honduras team (and fans) enjoy too many threatening periods of possession.
The ball bounces up from a routine 50-50 challenge and floats back towards the Honduras back line, but nobody on the US side is in any rush to pressure - understandable in the context of the weather and, perhaps, the game plan.
Finally the US get forward in something like decent numbers, with Chandler joining the attack on the flanks. His weak cross is cut out though.
First sign of the visitors beginning to emerge from their defensive shell as we approach the quarter hour mark. They have to defend again now though, as Costly gets turned to loft a cross from the far side of the box. It drifts out, but he had a worrying amount of time to turn from the defense's point of view.
Martinez pops up ont he right to keep the Honduras build up play going - the ball zipping around between home players neatly. They're pulling the US around well, though not much in the way of looks at goal just yet.
For anyone sneaking looks at this liveblog at work, the quarterly reports lack synergy.
So too (awkward segue alert) do the US, who aren't quite adding up to a coherent team at the moment.
Costly offside again, but as it turned out Gonzalez had headed clear. He'll be busy today. Still Honduras 0 USA 0.
Dempsey picks up the ball in a little space and jinks towards the edge of the box before being dispossessed by Espinoza, roughly but legally. Honduras immediately counter and are briefly two-on-one before Costly strays forward so that he's offside when he hots a poor shot straight at Howard. Dangerous move by the Hondurans though.
The US try to push up on a rough passing surface, but they're being pressurized in midfield early and most of the early possession is by Honduras.
...the free kick is poorly cleared by Williams and the ball is fired back in, but ricochets harmlessly past the far post for a US goal kick.
A moment later Chandler isn't quick enough to close down Martinez, who whips in a low cross across the six yard box, that Howard has to take two attempts to smother. Home crowd encouraged by these forays and the noise level rises again.
Altidore steps up to intercept a sloppy ball along the back line but it runs clear of him to the last man before he can hold up the ball for an attack. Honduras counter and have a free kick out wide left.
The US kick off and almost immediately give it away, before claiming the ball back and forcing their way forward. Bradley takes an early free kick in the Honduras half, but it's headed clear in the box and Honduras head forward to a huge cheer from the partisan crowd.
Well regarding the first point - as I said, it will be interesting to see where Johnson, nominally on the left wing, ends up playing. Honduras haven't had a competitive game for a few months - interesting to see how their MLS players do (arguably couldn't be worse than the US MLS players did against Canada last week).
High humidity and temperatures expected to reach 90 degrees this afternoon. Sunil Gulati of the US soccer federation wearing some severe looking sunglasses as he shakes hands with the players.
National anthems being played now. Johnson, Bradley, Howard singing along. The rest of the Americans just looking stern.
The good people at BeIN Sport are reminding us that the game is being played in the murder capital of the world and that the field at the Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Lula is surrounded by barbed wire.
Oh and it’s hot...
Teams ambling out without incident though.
Honduras: Valladares; Peralta, Bernardez, Figueroa, Garcia; Boniek Garcia, Espinoza, Garrido, Martinez; Bengtson, Costly
USA: Howard; Johnson, Gonzalez, Cameron, Chandler; Johnson, Jones, Bradley, Williams; Dempsey, Altidore
A sprinkling of MLS players in that line up. New England’s Bengtson leads the line, and the redoubtable Bernardez shores up the central defense. Boniek Garcia and Espinoza (now at Wigan of course) will be a handful in midfield.
For the US, interesting to see Omar Gonzalez keep his place in the side for his first qualifier - a gesture of faith in the young player, from a coach whose attempts to keep his feet on the ground have at times bordered on the dismissive. And there's a prominent place for Jozy Altidore too - another player who Klinsmann has publicly questioned, and who is leading the line, with Dempsey playing just off him. Seattle’s Eddie Johnson is in there as well - interesting to see how he plays out wide left. And of course, Klinsmann will be delighted to see Chandler finally commit to a US competitive cap.
No Bocanegra in that defense though...
Today’s hosts are coming into this game in a buoyant mood and in front of an expectant crowd who’ve been given a national holiday by the president for today’s game. Why the reason for all this confidence? Well aside from a promising performance at last year’s Olympics, where players such as Roger Espinoza raised one or two eyebrows (and arguably earned himself his recent move to the Premier League), there’s the small matter of the team’s last competitive game, against Canada, in October, as described here by a surprisingly upbeat Canadian newsreader:
Actually the tone might be understandable, since arguably, any defeat by the margin of 8-1 possibly shifts the discusion slightly from collective national trauma to the water-skiing-squirrel realm of novelty.
Honduras don’t care about such questions of course, and they’re not even engaging with any pre-match politics about their possible line up tonight - cheerfully throwing it out yesterday for anyone who cared to listen. I’ll put that up with the USA line up shortly...
Jurgen Klinsmann recently gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal where he offered that Clint Dempsey and others in the US squad hadn’t yet done s**t for all their personal achievements in the game - presumably a mind game that it’s time to put up or s**t up next time he happened to s**t up for the US. Watch out for his s**ts from distance this evening.
Interesting to see how Klinsmann’s attempts to rile his charges work. Last year he urged them to get more nasty, after a friendly loss to Brazil, while last week’s game, albeit with the de facto B team, was an exercise in muted politeness as the team ran through their drills without ever looking like scoring. The team certainly needs a spark - where will it come from?
If you're looking for excitement - you've come to the right place. Fresh from the 0-0 tie with Canada
that has entered the realm of legend, that was an exercise in several players cautiously tiptoeing in from, then back through, the door marked "international wilderness", a more familiar USA team will face Honduras this afternoon, in the first of the round robin hexagonal series that will determine who represents Concacaf in next year's World Cup.
After a first qualifying round that flirted with disaster (defeat in Jamaica; mud baths in Antigua) but ended up with the desired result, if not the desired route to get there, Jürgen Klinsmann finds himself facing a Honduran team who finished their own qualification in emphatic fashion - more on that in a moment.
To do so the US will have a side that includes stalwarts such as Bradley, Dempsey and Howard, but famously, no Landon Donovan - the LA Galaxy man is still on a sabbatical that coach Jürgen Klinsmann might be inclined to make permanent, should the US team qualify for Brazil next year without his assistance. As good a player as Donovan is, JK may not want to disrupt a successful team when the time comes.
First though, they have to succeed, and it's a tough start. More on this talented Honduran team in a moment, but for now let's just say that the USA will not be taking this game for granted in any way, as they enter the business end of qualification with a tough road trip. A point would be a decent outcome from this game, and keep the visitors on track for the "Concacaf success" template of "win your home games, tie on the road."
I will be back in a few moments with more buildup and team news. For now, send me your tweets to @KidWeil or emails to firstname.lastname@example.org with your opinions, predictions, and suggested improvements for national anthem performances and I'll try to use them.
In the meantime, you lucky lucky people, here are the highlights of last week's friendly against Canada, to inspire you for today's game:
FAIR WARNING: When I linked to the As it Happened transcript of this game on Twitter, I got this response: