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USA 1-1 Honduras, recap: The U.S. does just enough to take a point

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Phew!

Soccer: 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying-Trinidad & Tobago at USA Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

The U.S. Men’s National Team traveled to San Pedro Sula, Honduras looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2-0 defeat at home to Costa Rica on Friday night. As in the last away match in Mexico, Bruce Arena made seven changes to his lineup opting for a more defensive set up and sitting Tim Howard for goal kick specialist Brad Guzan. Amidst the Vuvuzelas, mid-afternoon heat, and uncut grass of the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano the USMNT struggled but never gave up and came away with a point in the match.

The U.S. came out playing conservatively against a Honduras team that could not afford to drop three points at home. Los Catrachos had different plans and after settling into the game began exploiting weaknesses on the U.S. backline. Graham Zusi was the main culprit as the right side of the defense seemed fated to be the source of trouble as the game approached the half-hour mark.

After two good chances where Romell Quioto and Alberth Ellis found space behind U.S. defenders Honduras broke through in the 27th minute. Alexander Lopez took advantage of space in midfield and sent a pass to Romell Quioto. The Houston Dynamo attacker drove toward the USMNT penalty area and Omar Gonzalez needlessly tried to play hero-ball as his mistimed tackle left Quioto one on one with Guzan who had no time to stop his shot. Honduras nearly doubled their lead in the 30th minute when they again managed a chance, though the shot sailed over the bar.

As the match neared halftime, Jordan Morris found Christian Pulisic with a pass on the right side of the Honduras six yard box. Pulisic was met by Honduran keeper Luis Lopez who easily blocked his shot with a diving save. Overall, the U.S. went into the half with few promising chances and several concerning defensive lapses that put Honduras looking comfortably in control of the match.

The first 15 minutes of the second half weren’t much of an improvement. Honduras was successfully disrupting U.S. possession while picking their moments to push forward and try to extend their lead. Underscoring the urgency for a goal and the need to at least win a point, Bruce Arena made a tactical sub opting for a three man backline with left back DaMarcus Beasley coming off for winger Paul Arriola and right back Graham Zusi making way for center back Geoff Cameron in the 63rd minute.

Despite having difficult winning the ball and controlling possession, Bruce Arena again showed his predilection for bringing on attacking players when he found his team trailing by subbing Darlington Nagbe off for Bobby Wood in the 73rd minute. As the game wound down, Honduras piled bodies behind the ball and the U.S. resorted to playing the ball long while Los Catrachos broke up combinations from the Red, Red, and Red as they searched for an equalizer.

It seemed that Honduras would come away with a cleansheet until the 85th minute when Alfredo Mejia fouled Christian Pulisic about 30 yards outside of the Honduras penalty area. Kellyn Acosta’s freekick was blocked by the Honduran keeper though the defense failed to clear the ball from danger. Matt Besler kept the ball in play flinging into the box and Jordan Morris headed it back to Bobby Wood who chested it down and poked a shot through to draw the U.S. even at one.

There was some late drama as Honduran defender Henry Figueroa was shown a red card but the U.S. effectively saw the game out to earn a draw. In the end, Honduras simply didn’t take care of business to see the game out. The U.S. did enough, just barely, to stay close enough to steal a point and that’s exactly what happened.