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SBI Flashback: The day Honduras took over RFK Stadium

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(With today's Gold Cup match between Honduras and the U.S. national team marking their first meeting here in Washington D.C. in eight years, I couldn't help but think back to that meeting two World Cup cycles ago, a match and a day among the most memorable of my career.)


Fans clad in blue banged on the closed gates of RFK Stadium, demanding to be let into watch a very important World Cup qualifier, only these fans weren't Americans. They were Hondurans.

The day was Sept. 1, 2001, and the U.S. national team was playing Honduras in a qualifier both teams needed to help their quest to book a place in the 2002 World Cup. I know there would be a lot of Honduran fans, I just didn't know how many.

It became very clear as the D.C. subway took me to RFK that morning that this wasn't a normal match. The subway car was filled with blue-striped shirts who didn't seem too bothered by the fact that this game was kicking off at 10 am. When we arrived at RFK, it became shockingly clear that this would be as far from a home game as any country could have in its own nation's capital.

Honduran fans taking over an American stadium isn't a rare sight. In fact, we just saw it in a World Cup qualifier in Chicago a month ago, but that day eight years ago was far different. Not only were the Honduran fans eager to cheer on a team pretty close to qualifying for a World Cup (their bid collapsed in the subsequent matches), they could sense that their team was ready to humble the Americans.

That's what Honduras did. Attacking in waves and overwhelming a U.S. team like few could have expected, the Hondurans went on to win, 3-2, in a match that wasn't really that close.

There were the lasting images and impressions from that match. Theree were the Honduras fans tossing water bottles at U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel, Milton Nunez dominating the American defense, a young and unknown (to Americans) named Amado Guevara, who was absolute class in midfield that day, a very young Landon Donovan struggling in his very first World Cup qualifier, and for me, there was the memory of trying to watch the match from the press box with a big Honduras banner obstructing the view of several reporters (before eventually being removed).

Like Donovan, that was my first World Cup qualifier, and I remember thinking "If this is what all qualifiers are like then I really love this job." I have since learned that not all qualifiers are that intense, that unforgettable.

Tonight's Gold Cup match won't offer nearly the same excitement, not when both teams are fielding B squads in a tournament a few notches below World Cup qualifying in terms of importance, but going to RFK Stadium tonight and seeing those blue-striped fans converging on the stadium is sure to bring back those memories of that crazy and unforgettable morning almost eight years ago.

Were you at RFK Stadium eight years ago for that qualifier? What do you remember from that match? Will you be attending tonight's match?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. There probably won’t be that many this year due to the strict restrictions (curfew, travel, etc.) placed on Hondurans in their country right now. The rogue regime is pretty stifling. I do hope they get to work out things in their country, but I clearly want the U.S.A. to win this game!

  2. I remember a Honduras/USA match in Seattle where Landon spanked them badly. The media however was impressed with the loud, colorful Honduras fans to the exclusion of the game and reality. The reality was that there were no more than 3 to 4 thousands Honduran fans out of 30,000.

  3. I went to the US-Mexico game in Columbus in February and the proportion of away fans at that game (and in the lots leading to the stadium) seemed similar.

    Outcomes influence memories.

  4. I believe David Regis was the favorite US scapegoat after the match?

    I was there in the upper deck above the south goal. The sections up there were quite mixed but the Hondurans were always boisterous. I didn’t toss any bags of urine nor see anyone else doing so.

    It was a very good game and we could have tied it with that PK. Their keeper took about 3 steps forward before Stewart took the kick but the save was allowed.

    It was a bad loss that could have knocked us out of the 2002 World Cup but we recovered thanks to the win over Jamaica and the Catrachos inability to take care of T&T.

    The game has a mythic urban legend quality and the proportion of Hondurans at the game grows with every retelling (most US fans didn’t arrive hours early to tailgate). I was disappointed in the outcome but never regretted being there.

    Tonight’s game should be fun but can’t have that level of intensity. I’m not expecting to be in a pro-USA stadium though.

  5. Watched it on TV. Remember clearly that Agoos got roasted for speed and thinking this guy is not WC quality. Little did I know….

  6. OTHER MATT. I agree with you on the myth of being outnumbered at RFK. It looks that way be/c ALL of their supporters wore blue. Whereas, US fans where Red, or blue…or white…or _____(insert color).

    YUSEF, don’t mean to get off subject, but you were at the US/Italy match in Germany 06? And you think the US/Hondo 01 match was more exciting? really? Come on.

  7. I seem to remember Cherundolo having a shocker of a game, but maybe that was the entire back line. It’s kind of amusing to see the roster. Kirovski starting? Preki a sub? Chris Henderson? Sanneh in midfield? yikes!

  8. I remember being incredibly discouraged by the U.S. and extrememly pissed off that security was doing nothing about the US supporters being pelted with bags of urine (among other things) from the upper levels.

  9. I was at that match and it is still the most exciting match I’ve seen in person (I was at the US World Cup matches in Germany and the Gold Cup Final in Chicago as well as other qualifiers). What I remember most was knowing that Earnie Stewart, who had the two goals, had no chance on the penalty kick even before he missed it as he missed a few in the month or two before for NAC Breda.


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