The previous time the U.S. men’s soccer team faced Honduras at RFK Stadium, it marked the last defeat suffered on home soil to a CONCACAF competitor.
To ensure a repeat performance wasn’t in store on Wednesday night, it was important for the United States' midfield, comprised mostly of MLS players, to play strongly. Bob Bradley knew it would be a difficult task.
“We knew that this would be a good challenge tonight…games like this, there’s got to be a good collective effort from start to finish.”
Honduran flags dominated the partisan crowd of 26,079, and the starting central midfield duo of Logan Pause and Kyle Beckerman struggled to get an early hold on the game.
Of the two, Beckerman looked more comfortable at the game’s onset, unlocking the Honduran defense with a brilliant through ball, but the opportunity was missed.
As the first half progressed, both sides had their share of struggles. A Beckerman turnover led to a breakaway for Honduran attacker Walter Martinez, but fortunately, his shot beat goalkeeper Troy Perkins and hit the side netting.
Play on the flanks was a different story. Robbie Rogers and Santino Quaranta both brought much-needed speed to the attack. Rogers, who was named the man of the match in the opening game of the Gold Cup, seemed to pick up where he left off.
Then there was Quaranta, earning his first national-team start since his well-documented comeback, performed well at his home stadium, RFK.
Honduran midfielders Melvin Valladares and Carlos Palacios gave the U.S. midfield fits, as they started to struggle to hold possession.
Rogers, who was looking dangerous going down the left flank, helped maintain pressure on the Honduran side. That being said, it was not a pretty game for either side, as neither side could convert on the few chances carved out.
The stretches of the game that the U.S. dominated were keyed by solid midfield play. They knocked around the ball with confidence and looked much more dangerous when in control.
It was no surprise when Bob Bradley elected to yank Pause out of the game in the second half. Taking his place was Benny Feilhaber, fresh off a solid performance at the Confederations Cup in South Africa.
The insertion of Feilhaber brought a calming effect to the match. His vision and touch in the center of the pitch were a welcome addition. With the ball at his feet, he helped spring the United States' first goal.
A nifty give-and-go between Feilhaber and Ching helped open the U.S. account. Navigating space through the tight Honduran defense, Feilhaber found an open Charlie Davies, who deflected the ball towards an onrushing Quaranta, who obliged by slamming home the game’s first goal.
With the goal, the U.S. found new legs and began to clamp down in the midfield. They managed to keep both the opposition and crowd at bay, and it was another goal from Brian Ching that sealed the 2-0 victory.
With newly found confidence thanks to their successive strikes, the U.S. midfield controlled the game’s final 10 minutes, ensuring their undefeated record in 2009 Gold Cup play. Bradley, while pleased with result, knows there still is work to be done.
"We still, as a group, have to put more into it. We still have to raise the level a little bit more."
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