By FRANCO PANIZO
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The U.S. men's national team is full of new faces now a days, but Jurgen Klinsmann can thank the familiar ones for his first victory as U.S. head coach.
The Americans won their first game in the Klinsmann era by beating Honduras 1-0 in front of 21,170 fans on a rainy and windy Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium.
Clint Dempsey scored the lone goal in the first half with a left-footed effort, and Tim Howard came up with a plethora of quality saves to give the United States its first victory since defeating Panama in the Gold Cup semifinals.
"Important was that we got the three points because obviously this team is hungry for success," said Klinsmann. "They want to do well and get the results done right."
Playing in a 4-1-3-2 formation, the Americans began the game by passing sloppily and giving up a number of chances to a Honduras attack that was orchestrated by Roger Espinoza.
The visitors took advantage of the U.S. team's slow start and nearly jumped out in front in the 19th minute when Jerry Bengston got behind Michael Orozco Fiscal and brought down a pass over the top. Howard came to the rescue for the Americans though, as he blocked the ensuing shot.
Getting help from fullback Timmy Chandler and Brek Shea's runs down the left flank, the United States eventually settled and started to dictate the tempo in a game that saw eight yellow cards handed out.
"It took us a little bit to get into a higher pace," said Klinsmann. "The first 20 minutes was a bit too static movement wise, but also because Honduras did a good job there, kind of pushing high up. Then after 20, 25 minutes, we took over and we created a lot more chances."
The United States broke the deadlock in the 36th minute. Following a corner kick that was played short by Steve Cherundolo, Shea whipped in a low cross from the right flank. Orozco Fiscal redirected the path of the ball to Dempsey, who finished with his left foot to score his 23rd goal wit the U.S. team.
"I didn't know if it was going to come through. I got a little bit lucky," said Dempsey. "I tried to take it with my right foot, saw that it was going to get blocked so I pulled it back to just try and place it with my left foot. I couldn't have hit it any better."
Honduras almost equalized a minute later when Orozco Fiscal was beaten by a ball played over the top, but the visitors' poor finishing continued as Costly shot wide.
The Americans' defensive effort improved in the second half following the insertion of Oguchi Onyewu, who replaced the injured Orozco Fiscal. Onyewu, who had not played since a pre-Gold Cup match against Spain, helped tighten things up in the back with his physical style of play and aerial presence.
That sturdy defending helped the Americans keep the ball for longer periods, which ultimately resulted in more chances.
At the center of those chances was Dempsey. Four minutes after the intermission, Dempsey made a dummy run that allowed the ball to find a wide open Danny Williams, who played and started in his first game for the United States. Williams' shot was gobbled up by Donis Escobar, who made five saves on the night.
Dempsey looked to have put the game away in the 84th minute when he rose up to meet a Jonathan Spector cross and headed past Escobar. Jamaican referee Courtney Campbell waved it off, though.
"I don't know what the call was on that," said Dempsey. "I rose up to the ball before the other player did, and I thought it was a clean goal. But I guess you kind of get used to a little bit of those decisions dealing with some of the refs in CONCACAF."
Dempsey's disallowed goal wasn't the only opportunity the Americans had to double their lead. In the second half alone, Shea, Onyewu and substitute DaMarcus Beasley all wasted good looks on goal.
Honduras also had clear opportunities to equalize that it missed, including a shot from 15 yards out by Costly that went wide left.
"Over the course of 90 minutes, it's always going to happen when you have some lapses or bad giveaways," said Jozy Altidore, who played in front of around 300 family members and friends. "Throughout the game, we picked it up and we did enough for the win."
The United States next faces Ecuador at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. on Tuesday, Oct. 11.
What do you think of the United States' win over Honduras? Who impressed/disappointed you? Did you like the way the U.S. team played?
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