With just minutes to play and their World Cup hopes hanging in the balance, the U.S. men’s national team got a goal from Bobby Wood to earn a 1-1 tie on the road in Honduras that may go a long way toward getting them to Russia next year.
In the chaos following a free kick from 30 yards out, Wood gathered a loose ball just 3 yards from the Honduras goal and put it in the net to salvage a crucial one point in the World Cup qualifying tournament.
The Americans will now finish this round of matches in no worse than fourth place. The top three teams in the six-team tournament qualify automatically for next year’s World Cup in Russia. The fourth place team will play a home-and-home playoff against the winner of the Asian Confederation playoff between Australia and Syria.
The U.S. has qualified for every World Cup since 1990. The U.S. men play their last matches in the qualifying tournament in October against Panama and Trinidad & Tobago in what are likely must-win contests.
The U.S. had demolished Honduras 6-0 in March, but for most of this game, they played a near carbon-copy of Friday night’s loss to Costa Rica.
The Americans came out on the attack, threatening in and around the Honduras penalty area several times but failed each time to make that final pass or combination to get the ball in the back of the net.
Honduras adopted Costa Rica’s strategy to sit back and wait for an opportunity to spring one of its strikers through a porous U.S. defense that is struggling to find cohesion without the injured John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin.
The Catrachos nearly took the lead on the 25th minute when Romell Quioto’s volley from 5 yards sailed over the goal. Two minutes later, though, Quioto ran around right back Graham Zusi to pick up a through ball. The American defender Omar Gonzalez recovered but failed to complete a tackle in the penalty area, allowing Quioto to collect the ball and curl a shot past goalkeeper Brad Guzan that caromed off the far post and into the net.
The score appeared to deflate the U.S. team, which was suddenly in danger of dropping one spot from the bottom of the six-team tournament. With a screaming crowd behind them, Honduras went on the attack and controlled play for the rest of the first half.
In the second half, Honduras mostly packed their defensive line deep in their own zone, giving the U.S. little space to create scoring chances. But the U.S. men did themselves no favors, struggling to string together more than a few passes as the match descended into a series of substitutions and stalling with questionable injuries.
But yet another foul against the young American star Christian Pulisic with five minutes left in regulation gave the U.S. its first real chance of the half. An acrobatic save on a screaming shot off the foot of Kellyn Acosta left the ball bouncing deep in the Honduras penalty area. When a flick brought the ball to Wood’s chest, he controlled it to his foot and poked in one of the biggest goals of the year for the U.S.
Write to Matthew Futterman at firstname.lastname@example.org