The United States Men’s National team avoided disaster Tuesday by winning a late draw with Honduras in World Cup qualifying.
The U.S. conceded a goal in the 27th minute after midfielder Alexander Lopez laced a point perfect through ball to the foot of Romell Quioto who curled it past a flailing Brad Guzan. 1-0 Honduras.
The American central defensive pairing of Graham Zusi and Omar Gonzalez were exposed on multiple occasions by Honduras’s speedy attacking players and the play that led to the goal was no exception.
For the rest of the first half and well into the second, Honduras dominated possession and ended the game with a 54% possession advantage. The Hondurans did not allow any of the United States’ marquee players to get comfortable and appeared to be well on their way to securing three points against the floundering Americans.
In the 62nd minute, U.S. manager Bruce Arena made a double switch, taking off Demarcus Beasley and Graham Zusi for Paul Arriola and Geoff Cameron. Arriola’s inclusion into the game was noticeable as he was free to use his speed to carry the ball down the right side of the field several times after coming on, something that had not happened up until that point.
Ten minutes later Bobby Wood replaced Darlington Nagbe. Jordan Morris, who had not been heard from up to that point, moved to a more left-wing role allowing Wood to take on striker duties.
With less than five minutes to play in regulation, Christian Pulisic won a free kick in his team’s attacking half. As the team set up for what would likely be the final quality attempt to salvage a point, Kellyn Acosta stepped over the ball and delivered a near perfect shot on target that would have found the back of the net if not for a spectacular save by Luis Lopez, the Honduras keeper. Lopez’s deflection landed on the left side of the box where Matt Besler caught the ball on the bounce, flicked it behind him to Jordan Morris’s who nodded the ball to the center of the goal onto Bobby Wood’s chest who coolly poked it past the keeper. Tie game.
After a late unnecessary foul by Henry Figueroa, which led to his second booking of the game and a red card, Honduras played with 10 men for the final 90 seconds, but the Americans were unable to take advantage.
The American managed to save a point in the oppressive Honduras heat and keep hope alive of qualifying for Russia.
Now with six of the eight qualifying matches in the books, the U.S. has 9 points, tied for third place with Honduras in the Hex.
The final two matches will be played in early October. The U.S. host Panama followed by a trip to Trinidad & Tobago. Honduras face a much taller test in their final fixtures, taking on second place Costa Rica on the road and finish the competition by hosting Mexico.
The United States control their own destiny. Two wins and they’ve booked their ticket to the World Cup 2018 in Russia. Any slip-ups against their final two opponents and they could leave the door open for Honduras to steal third place in the group and force the U.S. to play a playoff match to qualify.