United States men’s national soccer team falls to Honduras 2-1; The Americans lose the opening match of World Cup Qualifying

By Alex Bullock

In their opening match of the final round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the United States men’s national team suffered a 2-1 loss in Honduras on Feb. 6.

“It’s not what we wanted. We wanted to start with a positive result. We have to fix that [before the match] against Costa Rica in March,” said head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Klinsmann, a German who helped his country win the 1990 FIFA World Cup as a player, said the Americans “made too many mistakes…[and] gave too many opportunities to this Honduras team and they took advantage of it.”

American forward Clint Dempsey scored the only goal for the Americans in the 36th minute. Honduran defender Juan Carlos Garcia tied the score just four minutes later with an amazing bicycle kick goal that left American goalkeeper Tim Howard astounded.

“It was a great goal. Hats off to him for even trying it. From there on it was difficult and I thought we didn’t play nearly as well as we could have,” said Howard.

Jerry Bengston of Honduras scored what would be the deciding goal in the 79th minute after a miscommunication between Howard and his defenders.

After the opening loss, the Americans find themselves in sixth place out of the six remaining teams in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. CONCACAF is the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, the association within FIFA in which the United States plays. Along with Honduras, the Americans are joined in the group by Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Panama.

Each team will play every other team in the group twice. Three points are awarded for a win, one for a draw, and zero for a loss. The top three teams at the end of the round qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup to be played in Brazil next summer. The fourth place team will face a one game playoff with a nation from CONEMBOL, the South American football confederation.

In the rest of the opening matches, Mexico and Jamaica played to a draw, as did Costa Rica and Panama, leaving the Americans with a smaller hole to climb out of, but a hole nonetheless.

“When you’re playing in a situation like this where points are on the line you never want to start with zero, but you can’t panic,” said American midfielder Michael Bradley. “There are nine more games to go, we get a home game next and we have to look at things, improve things and know that the three points in the next game are crucial.”

The United States men’s national team is looking to lengthen its streak of six consecutive World Cup appearances, which is currently the longest in CONCACAF. The Americans’ streak of six straight FIFA World Cup appearances is the seventh-best active streak behind Brazil (19), Germany (15), Italy (13), Argentina (10), Spain (9) and Republic of Korea (7).

The Americans’ face Costa Rica in their next qualifying match in Commerce City, Colo. on March 22.