GEORGE MURPHY - Saturday, June 6, 2009
Bob Bradley and the United States Men's National team rebounded from a disappointing defeat to Costa Rica earlier in the week by defeating Honduras in front of 55,647 fans at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.
After coming under much scrutiny because of his change in formation and strategy against Costa Rica, coach Bradley decided to go back to his four-four-two formation with Jonathan Bornstein, Jonathan Spector, Ricardo Clark, and Conor Casey coming on for DaMarcus Beasley, Marvell Wynne, suspended Michael Bradley and Jose Francisco Torres respectively.
However, the United States midfield and backline gave up another early goal after Clint Dempsey gave the ball away in central midfield early in the game. Carlos Costly capitalized on the chance in the fourth minute and bent a low shot past a diving Tim Howard for the early shock lead.
Ten minutes later, Landon Donovan took a free kick from the top of the eighteen yard box which only found the defending team's wall. The LA Galaxy man did get a second chance but his dangerous left-footed cross only found the Honduras goalkeeper
Donovan was able to keep the pressure on the visiting team's goal after another dangerous cross, this time an inswinger from 30 yards out, found Carlos Bocanegra wide open on the far post but the Rennes defender was unable to make a connection for the tying goal.
The United States came close again three minutes later when Casey fired a volley over the bar after a Donovan service went uncleared
Bob Bradley continued to encourage his team to get forward and attack, and in the thirty-first minute Dempsey's clever backheel found an overlapping Jonathan Spector who took the ball into the right side of the Honduras' penalty area, but his cross failed to pinpoint a United States striker and instead was collected by the Honduras goalkeeper.
United States defender Oguchi Onyewu had what appeared to be an open header after yet another dangerous long-range service by Donovan, but the former Standard Liege player was unable to power the ball by the Honduras goalkeeper who seemed to be up to the task of keeping the home team from earning three points on the night.
Bob Bradley's team seemed to have finally found the equalizing goal in the37th minute when Ricardo Clark exploded into the opposing team's box only to be taken down for what appeared to be an obvious penalty, but the call was not given and Bradley and the rest of the country were left scratching their heads.
However, three minutes later a Clark back pass to Onyewu took two Honduras players out of the equation, and the resulting long early ball has handled by Honduras defender Mario Besta for a penalty call. Donovan steeped up and blasted the spot kick with authority and the match was tied.
After halftime, coach Bradley decided to make a change as Pablo Mastroeni was sacrificed for Benny Feilhaber who Bradley hoped would bring on some attacking flair to a United States midfield.
Near the hour mark, Bradley's change seemed to almost have paid off after Feilhaber's cross into the box found a wide open Clint Dempsey at the far post. Dempsey however seemed to be stuck in between a decision to cross the ball across the box or take a one-time shot on goal, and in the end decided to try to find an oncoming striker for an easy finish only to cross into an empty penalty spot for a wasted chance.
Honduras' most dangerous player, Tottenham Hotspurs' Wilson Palacios, was taken off in the 66th minute, and two minutes later the US took advantage.
A Donovan corner kick found Dempsey on the far post who headed the ball across the area. Bocanegra pounced on the wayward ball, launched himself nearly to the ground and found the back of the net for the United States' second goal of the evening.
Bocanegra, however, was hurt shortly thereafter after a tackle on a Honduras player which left the center back with what appeared to be an injured hamstring and was replaced by Jay DeMerit.
For the remainder of the game, Tim Howard and the rest of the United States defense was able to turn away a trio of Honduras chances on goal to earn the away goal and move back into second place in their CONCACAF qualifying group, moving to second place only behind Costa Rica who both have games in hand ahead of trailing Mexico - who on the same evening lost 1-0 to El Salvador - and Honduras.