The United States men's soccer team would've been happy leaving Honduras with a point, but it wasn't in order as the Hondurans took down the Americans 2-1 Wednesday in the 2014 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying final round.
A goalkeeping lapse by Tim Howard allowed Honduras' game-winning goal in the 79th minute, as his missed slide on the outer left-hand edge of the box freed up Juan Carlos Garcia—who found Jerry Bengtson, who put home the winner on an empty net.
USA was given more than 10 minutes of time to net an equalizer, but couldn't get past the back end of the Honduran defense to close out a bad offensive performance overall. An Omar Gonzalez header about a foot over the crossbar would be their last chance in extra time.
The loss will certainly hurt the Americans, who were looking for at least some sort of points after the first match of the final round of qualifying. They'll need to pick it up offensively going forward to have a chance at qualifying.
The Americans opened up the scoring on a lofted-through ball by Jones that was poked in by Dempsey on a beautiful run into the penalty box. The game's first goal came in the 36th minute after a slow offensive start.
Dempsey's goal allowed him to pull into the lone third-place spot in US soccer history, passing Brian McBride. Dempsey now has 31 career goals.
But it didn't take long for the Hondurans to answer—and in a huge way. Fans were jubilant after a 39th-minute incredible bicycle-kick goal by Garcia, a shot that will undoubtedly make highlight reels across the world.
It took some time for both teams to get going, but each were able to go into the locker room at halftime with an impressive goal for confidence.
Honduras nearly opened the floodgates after halftime with a goal that seemed good, but was called off. The Hondurans didn't like the call but after a replay, it was obvious the close call was the right one.
But it didn't hurt the Hondurans, who found their game-winner and have immensely improved their chances of making the squad of the final 32 teams.
Clint Dempsey: B
With Landon Donovan nowhere to be found, it's the Clint Dempsey show for US soccer and they need him to be a star in order to win tough matches like this one.
He wasn't quite a star, but still had his usual impact on the game with the Americans' first goal of the day.
Dempsey was fed on a brilliant lofted-through ball by Jermaine Jones in the first half that the Premier League forward tapped over the Honduras goalkeeper and into the net.
Juan Carlos Garcia: A-
Garcia was the major contributor to Honduras' win, as he anchored the offensive attack all match long and simply created both of his club's goals.
He earned himself a spot on ESPN's upcoming highlight reel with his bicycle kick for the equalizing goal late in the first half. But to top that, he went on a strong run down the right side late in the match, staved off defender Geoff Cameron and goalkeeper Howard and found his open teammate for the goal.
Assists aren't always earned, but Garcia's assist in the win over the US might as well have been counted as a goal. He also nearly put in a blistering rip from more than 25 yards out.
Garcia led his less talented team into a big win Wednesday over a soccer giant—at least in North American terms.
Tim Howard: C+
Usually the main anchor at the end of America's defense, Tim Howard wasn't his usual, reliable self Wednesday and that cost his team a match.
In a match that wasn't exactly exciting offensively, each chance was at a premium and the save that Howard butchered late in the second half could not be overcome.
The ball hardly ever passes by Howard unless it's a brilliantly struck ball, but that wasn't the case Wednesday. While his first conceded goal was an incredible play by Garcia, the second one should've been an easy get for the Everton player.
If the US wants to advance to the World Cup, they can't afford for Howard to be anything less than dominant—or at least reliable—from here on out.
Paul Carr of ESPN laid out the updated qualification chances after Honduras' big win and a disappointing loss for the Americans:
With the loss, SPI says #USMNT's odds of qualifying drop from 61.6% to 52.7%. Honduras jumps from 59.2% to 74.5%.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) February 6, 2013
Sports Illustrated writer Andy Glockner wasn't shy in his analysis of what went wrong during Honduras' winning goal, which featured a costly defensive mistake by Geoff Cameron:
That's awful defending by Cameron. Dreadful.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) February 6, 2013
After the final whistle and an American loss, Big Lead columnist Ty Duffy summed up the performance in just three fitting words:
Depressing. Not surprising.— Tyler Duffy (@tyduffy) February 6, 2013
Nutmeg Radio pointed out that there may not be too much of an improvement between America's last manager and the man who is currently steering the ship:
Revisited too many times: It's time like this when you wonder what the big difference is between Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann.— Nutmeg Radio (@NutmegRadio) February 6, 2013
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