Fellow World Cup qualifier Honduras thoroughly outplayed a second-string U.S. lineup, winning an exhibition game 3-1 Saturday night.
“They looked a little more dangerous, a little more lively than we did,” said defender Jimmy Conrad, the U.S. captain for this match.
Conrad, a member of the 2006 U.S. World Cup team, was ejected by Mexican referee Benito Archundia in the 17th minute for his second yellow card, given for an off-the-ball foul in the penalty area on Jerry Palacios.
“Now we’re forced to chase the game,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “At this point, that’s a big task for this group. I thought our passing was poor. Some passes that could’ve been played on the ground ended up in guys’ chests.”
Before a pro-Honduras crowd of 18,626, the Catrachos built a three-goal lead by early in the second half.
Carlos Pavon, who put a penalty kick over the crossbar during last October’s World Cup qualifier, followed Conrad’s second yellow card by converting a penalty kick in the 19th minute for his 58th international goal, a Honduran record. He needed two tries to do it — he made his first attempt, but it was whistled off because Hondurans had entered the penalty area too soon.
“It’s tough to fight back, especially a man down,” said left back Jonathan Bornstein, the closest to a regular in the U.S. lineup.
Palacios split the defense to beat goalkeeper Troy Perkins with a 6-yard header off Pavon’s cross in the 37th following a long ball by Emilio Izaguirre.
Three minutes after Robbie Rogers hit the crossbar with the best U.S. chance to that point, Roger Espinoza made it 3-0 in the 53rd, slotting the ball in from 8 yards.
Clarence Goodson scored in the 70th for the 14th-ranked U.S., using an elbow to outleap goalkeeper Donis Escobar to head in Brad Davis‘ corner kick. Goodson also scored against Honduras in last summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal.
While it was the first U.S. loss to Honduras since 2001, none of the Americans in this match are likely to be in the starting lineup at the World Cup against England on June 12. The regulars stayed in Europe with their clubs, and Bradley used a group from Major League Soccer and Scandinavian teams on winter break, players trying to earn roster spots as reserves.
This was the first of five planned warmups ahead of the World Cup. Most American regulars also will miss the Feb. 24 game against El Salvador at Tampa, but Bradley should have a relatively full-strength roster for the March 3 match against the Netherlands in Amsterdam — the last game before he picks his 23-man roster. The Americans then probably will play a pair of exhibitions at home in May before heading to South Africa, where they also play Slovenia and Algeria in the first round.
Honduras, tied for 37th in the world rankings, is preparing to meet Chile, Spain and Switzerland in its first World Cup appearance since 1982. The Catrachos also were missing their Europe-based players.
Bornstein was the only U.S. starter held over from October’s qualifier at San Pedro Sula, when the Americans rallied for a 3-2 win that clinched their sixth straight World Cup appearance. Four days later, it was Bornstein’s injury-time goal against Costa Rica that gained a 2-2 tie — and put Honduras in the World Cup instead of Costa Rica.
Honduras used just three starters from October’s match. Catrachos captain Amado Guevara, MLS’ MVP in 2004, provided the scouting report on the Americans.
“I trained with a few of them, and I had some as teammates,” he said. “I told all my teammates about each one. I feel very good about the way we analyzed how the United States plays, how each player moves.”