Wednesday, June 19, 2013

USMNT Nears World Cup Qualification With Win Over Honduras

Last night, the USMNT moved one step closer to qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup by knocking off Honduras, 1-0. Jozy Altidore scored off a nice feed from Fabian Johnson in the 71st minute to put the Stars and Stripes on the scoreboard, and despite not being able to put a number of other chances into the net, the US held on to win its third consecutive qualifer.

Watch Jozy Altidore's game-winning goal

The US dominated play last night, both visually and statistically. Honduras seemed to play for a draw in the first half, often keeping all but one of its players behind the ball and daring the US to come forward. Honduras' best threat of the match came near stoppage time when Tim Howard saved an Andy Najar shot, an opportunity was created by a bad clearance by an otherwise-solid Matt Besler.

The US's started out much more aggressive in the second half, creating chances in the 56th minute (Evans header saved) and 63rd minute (Dempsey header hit the arm of a Honduran defender in the box, but no call was made for what should have been a penalty kick awarded to the US). It seemed inevitable there would be a goal, and the red-hot Altidore was able to convert on his best opportunity of the night.

The US outshot Honduras 13-6, shots on goal 5-1, and had 9 corner kicks to HON's 3.

The Hex standings show the US on top with 13 points, followed by Costa Rica with 11, Mexico with 8, Honduras with 7, Panama with 6, and Jamaica with 2. Each team plays four more matches, so there are loads of points left to play for. The US will mathematically clinch by earning six more points.

That sets the stage for its next two qualifiers, both critical matches in September: at Costa Rica on September 6 and home vs Mexico on September 10 in Columbus, Ohio. If the US wins both, they will rest easy in their final two matches. Obviously, Costa Rica and Mexico are not quite as solidly positioned, so they will be a bit more desperate, promising some interesting drama between the best three teams in the Hex this fall.

NEXT UP: World Cup qualifying does not begin again until the match at Costa Rica on September 6, but that doesn't mean the USMNT will rest this summer. Many of the core players on the team will also represent the Stars and Stripes in the Gold Cup, the regional tournament hosted by the US, which kicks off in July. The first match of the group stage for the US will be on July 9th when they take on Belize in Portland, followed by July 13th against Cuba in Salt Lake City, and Costa Rica in Connecticut.

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