For the U.S.: When a Draw Feels Like a Victory

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Russia logoIs there something less than encouraging about snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat.

But for the United States men’s national team, a late goal by the substitute Bobby Wood pocketed a desperate point for the U.S. in a CONCACAF World Cup qualifier against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Tuesday evening.

The draw leaves the U.S. and Honduras tied on points 8 points with identical 2-3-2 records, but the U.S. has an edge in goal differential, plus-1 to minus-7. Depending on a later result, Panama could jump past both the U.S. and Honduras with a win over Trinidad and Tobago game. Two games remain for the U.S.: Oct. 6 vs. Panama in Orlando, Fla.; and Oct. 10 at Trinidad and Tobago. Honduras faces Costa Rica and Mexico in its final two games.

“We would have loved three points, but a down is great down here,” U.S. striker Jordan Morris told beIN Sports after the game. “We got a point, so that’s important.”

Like Costa Rica last Friday, Honduras succeeded by frustrating, and fouling when necessary or not, to stifled the U.S. and disrupt any glimpses of rhythm. It was on a set piece, or rather after a set piece, that the U.S. was able to break through.

U.S. Coach Bruce Arena made seven changes from the lineup that lost to Costa Rica, 2-0, last Friday. In goal, Tim Howard made way for Brad Guzan. Out went center backs Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream. In came Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler. Out went left back Jorge Villafaña and in came the veteran DaMarcus Beasley. Kellyn Acosta replaced Fabian Johnson, and Morris stepped in for Wood and Clint Dempsey for Jozy Altidore, who was suspended.

Only Michael Bradley, Christian Pulisic, Graham Zusi and Darlington Nagbe were holdovers from Friday’s starters. Pulisic was the only non-MLS player in the lineup.

A quarter-hour into the game, Alberth Elis launched a cross from the left that Romell Quioto broke on, beating Beasley to the ball. But his rushed volley went over the bar.

Two minutes later the roof fell in on the U.S. Gonzalez stretched on a desperation tackle, but Quioto kept his balance and recovered to collect a perfect through ball from Alexander López before putting a shot off the near post and into the net.

2907113_xbig-lndBefore the goal, the U.S. pressed the game, though often frustrated by hard fouls, especially on Dempsey. After the goal, not so much as Honduras surged forward and practically owned possession..

With fewer than five minutes left in the first half, Pulisic and Morris worked a nice combination that sent the Borussia Dortmund star in on goal. But his shot was stopped by goalkeeper Luis López.

In a desperate attempt to inject some life into the U.S., Arena brought on Paul Arriola and then Cameron, taking off Beasley and Zusi with about 25 minutes left. Within 10 minutes, Wood entered and Nagbe departed. The changes played a pivotal role for Arena, who basically stood pat against Costa Rica.

A hard foul on Pulisic about 35 yeards out, led to the tying goal for the U.S. Acosta’s free kick was tipped by López off the bar. It rebounded to Besler on the left, whose overhead kick was headed backward by Cameron, touched by Morris and then chested down and tucked into the back of the net by Wood.

In the game, the U.S. put only four shots on goal, compared to six by Honduras. As the saying goes, the U.S. holds its own destiny. Two wins and they’re in.

The U.S. has one win in 38 World Cup qualifiers when trailing at the half (1-32-6). The win was at Panama in the 2013 Hex.

Notes

You’d have to say that Pulisic was fully CONCACAFed in this round of games. He was fouled, pushed, pulled and generally abused by the opposition and received little help from the referees. … After the final round of games in Asia, Syria and Australia, both third-place finishers in their groups, advanced to the continental playoff. The winner advances to play the fourth-place finisher in the Hex.