Before the United States Men’s National Team took to the field one last time in the 2009 Hexagonal against Costa Rica at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC, it had already been an incredibly emotional 36 hours. Two nights prior, the team had arrived in DC fresh off qualifying for the 2010 World Cup after a 3-2 win in Honduras. Charlie Davies, then a bright young star for the USMNT, went out partying and eventually was a passenger in a car that was involved in a horrific accident. Davies was seriously injured in the crash which killed another person in the car.
Davies was expected to start in the match at RFK against Costa Rica, where a lot was still unsettled in World Cup qualifying. Honduras and Costa Rica both still had chances to secure a trip to South Africa, and the USMNT had a chance to finish 1st in the Hex over archrivals Mexico. The news of Davies’ injuries crushed American fans everywhere. Fans who traveled to the match immediately organized a tribute in the 9th minute for Davies (who wore #9) in one of the most iconic moments in U.S. Soccer history.
Still, with all that, there was a match to be played, and the USMNT took a long while to shake off the emotional funk. Before they knew it, it was 2-0 Costa Rica, courtesy of Bryan Ruiz goals in the 21st and 24th minute. It took until the 72nd minute for the Americans to get one back, a Michael Bradley goal helping the cause. There was still cause for optimism for the Americans, but that optimism was dashed in the 83rd minute, when defender Oguchi Onyewu went down with a non-contact knee injury and had to be stretchered off the field. Then-head coach Bob Bradley had already used all 3 substitutes, so the USMNT had to play down a man the rest of the match.
3000 miles away, a team was playing and looking on: Honduras. Honduras, who had only qualified for one previous World Cup in their history (1982), was beating El Salvador 1-0, but needed Costa Rica to tie or lose to qualify outright. Anything else would have forced them into the inter-confederation playoff against Uruguay. So, they were playing while their eyes were on televisions, hoping for a miracle in DC.
In stoppage time, the USMNT were going for it, pressing for a goal. In the 5th minute of stoppage time, they earned a corner kick, with one last chance to get the draw. Robbie Rogers stood over the ball ready to send it into the box, but who would be the hero?
His name was Jonathan Bornstein. Bornstein, somehow finding his way through the crowd of players in front of the goal, elevated into the air to head the ball with power off the bottom right post and in. 2-2.
The 26,243 fans at RFK Stadium entered a state of bedlam. The Costa Rican players were shellshocked. And 3,000 miles away, Honduras had a reaction for the history books:
Honduras, by the miracle goal from Jonathan Bornstein, had qualified for their 2nd World Cup, its first in 28 years. Broadcasters yelling, screaming, crying and otherwise exhibiting extreme euphoria on the air was a joy you could hear clear across the continent. Los Catrachos were through, and they had Bornstein to thank.
The match ended just seconds later deadlocked at 2-2, the USMNT Kings of the Hex. Honduras finished in 3rd and Costa Rica, still shocked and in tears, fell to 4th and the intr-confederation playoff against Uruguay. They would eventually lose that playoff under dubious circumstances. For the United States, it was a night fans would never forget. For Honduras, it was a victory they would always remember, and Jonathan Bornstein continues to be a Honduran hero for the header that sent Los Catrachos to South Africa 2010.