KENYA BROWN - Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Bobby Wood may have just saved the United States chance of automatic qualification for the World Cup as his goal saw them steal a point against Honduras on Tuesday at Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano.
After a disastrous outing last Friday against Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena, the US entered the game under much pressure as they put themselves into a battle to claim CONCACAF's third automatic qualifying spot for Russia 2018 with their opponents and Panama as they would face a tricky encounter against the qualifer for Asia for the golden ticket to next year's tournament.
When these two teams met in March in San Jose, California, the US walked away with a huge 6-0 win that got their qualifying campaign back on track following the dismissal of Jurgen Klinsmann as coach. However, the team has never had much luck playing down in Honduras and partisan crowd in San Pedro Sula were definitely going to make this game difficult for them.
Head coach Bruce Arena decided to make seven changes to his lineup from Costa Rica. It was a mostly MLS-laden team on the field. Brad Guzan replaced Tim Howard in goal while Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler took the central defense spots in the place of Tim Ream and Geoff Cameron, who had never teamed up before until Friday.
DaMarcus Beasley got the start ahead of Jorge Villafana at left back, Kellyn Acosta teamed up with captain Michael Bradley in midfield. Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris started in the attack alongside Christian Pulisic.
The US would have their first chance of the game two minutes in when Pulisic sent a cross into the area that Dempsey passed on to Morris. However, the forward's shot went wide of the goal.
Then Honduras began to put pressure on the US goal, with their best opportunity coming in the 24th minute when forward Alberth Elis cut into the area from the left and unleashed a right-footed shot that beat Graham Zusi, but Guzan was able make the save.
The home side finally got the goal they deserved in the 27th minute when a through ball from Alexander Lopez found Romell Quioto as he made his run into the area. Gonzalez got a foot on the ball when he made a tackle, but it would roll into the direction of the Honduran forward who then fired his shot past Guzan brought the fans to cheers.
Maynor Figueroa came close to doubling Los Catrachos' lead just before halftime when his powerful free kick made it past the US wall and was goal bound, but Guzan did well to parry the ball over the bar.
The second half would see both sides pushing for goals, but following personnel changes from the US side, they would find the equalizer in the 85th minute that may have saved their World Cup hopes.
The visitors were awarded a free kick after Pulisic was brought down. Acosta's took a crack at goal and his attempt would have gone in if not for a great save by goalkeeper Luis Lopez. However, he could not hold on to the ball and Besler was able to get his foot on it as went towards Morris, who headed it into the path of Wood. The sub would then bring the ball down with his chest and tap it past Lopez.
With time winding down and the game effectively over, Henry Figueroa would be sent off by the referee for getting his second yellow card in the game.
In the end, a much-needed point for the US and nail-biting couple of games in October to wrap up the Hex.
With the team now sitting in fourth place in the standings, they will need to turn things around and will most likely need wins against both Panama and Trinidad and Tobago if they want to secure the third automatic spot.