Jozy Altidore’s 73rd minute strike was all the U.S. Men’s National Team needed to overcome a depleted Honduras and take a 1-0 win in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, on Tuesday night.
The win saw the U.S. (4-1-1, 13 points) remain in first place in the Fourth Round group, six points above fourth place Honduras (2-3-1, 7 points) and seven points above fifth place Panama (1-2-3, 6 points) with four games remaining. The top three teams automatically advance to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, while the fourth place team faces a playoff with New Zealand.
The U.S. squandered countless opportunities throughout the match and handed Honduras some gilt-edged chances with some sloppy defensive play, but survived to win on Altidore’s strike when Graham Zusi dummied a pass from Clint Dempsey, allow Fabian Johnson to slip into the box. Johnson sent a pass back to Altidore who slotted a shot inside the far post to put the U.S. ahead.
The Americans nearly opened the scoring off an 8th minute corner kick when Zusi picked out Dempsey with a cross. Dempsey, in space, powered a header toward goal, but his effort was just wide of the near post.
Nine minutes later the U.S. came close again, this time off a Fabian Johnson cross from the left flank. Fabian Johnson’s cross found Eddie Johnson, who one-timed a low shot on frame that goalkeeper Noel Valladares managed to dive to save. Seconds later Bradley sent a cross to a wide open Dempsey in the box, but the former New England Revolution striker couldn’t get a touch on the ball.
Honduras had a chance of their own at the end of the first half when a poor giveaway by Matt Besler allowed Andy Najar to break in on goal. Najar launched a shot on frame, but goalkeeper Tim Howard managed to tip it wide.
The U.S. came out with renewed vigor in the second half and Brad Evans then came close to scoring in the 55th minute when Zusi picked him out in the box with a free kick from the right flank. Evans headed a shot on frame, but it was right at Valladares, who made the save.
The home side came close again in the 70th minute when Zusi found Dempsey making a run into the right side of the box. The Tottenham Hotspur forward connect with a diving header, but again it was too close to Valladares, who punched it out. The rebound fell to Michael Bradley who blasted a shot high of the net.
Altidore finally put the U.S. ahead in 73rd minute off Fabian Johnson’s pass. He nearly added to his tally five minutes later when he got the ball in space on the right flank and cut inside at the top of the box, but his shot targeted for the lower corner was tipped wide by Valladares.
Both sides had chances as the match came to a conclusion, but failed to test the opposing keepers the rest of the way.
The U.S. returns to action on July 5th with a friendly against Guatemala at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif.
Sean Donahue serves as an editor and staff writer at New England Soccer Today. He has been covering the New England Revolution since 2002 for various publications. He has covered four MLS Cups, in addition to covering various international matches, including World Cup Qualifying and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He has done freelance work for the Associated Press and ESPN Boston.
Sean co-hosts New American Game, a soccer talk radio show from 10am to noon on WMEX AM1510. He previously hosted Revolution Recap, a weekly radio program covering the New England Revolution and U.S. Men's National Team from 2005-2008. He is a member of the North American Soccer Reporters. Sean can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @SeanLDonahue