By FRANCO PANIZO
BOCA RATON, Fla. — For the second straight match, the U.S. Men’s National Team scored early. For the second straight match, a late goal robbed the Americans of a victory.
The U.S. were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw on Tuesday night, as Maynor Figueroa netted an 86th-minute equalizer in a 1-1 draw at FAU Stadium. Jozy Altidore had scored an early opener off a ball from Michael Bradley, but Figueroa pulled Honduras level when he beat experimental centerback Jermaine Jones to a free kick and nodded it home.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side controlled much of the first half of the friendly played in front of a crowd of 14,805, but Honduras came up with a better showing in the closing half. The Hondurans looked the more dangerous of the two teams in the attack, but the U.S. defense held firm until a foul from Mix Diskerud awarded the Hondurans a free kick from the right side that wound up in the back of net.
“I think we started really well, got that goal through Jozy, nice goal,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “Then after 30-35 minutes, we kind of dropped a little bit and the second half was then difficult to keep the rhythm going and the sharpness and Honduras looked good and energetic.
“I think at the end of the day, they deserved then the equalizer. I think as a result it was okay a 1-1.”
Playing in front of several friends and family in his hometown, Altidore gave the U.S. the advantage in the 10th minute.
Two minutes after mis-hitting a pass to Clint Dempsey on an attacking sequence that looked promising, Altidore made amends for that by latching onto a sublime aerial ball from Michael Bradley. The 24-year-old striker brought the ball down, cut back on his right foot and fired a low shot into the post that Donis Escober could do nothing about.
The goal was Altidore’s first since scoring in a friendly vs. Nigeria in June before the World Cup, where he suffered a hamstring injury early into the Americans’ opener that sidelined him for the rest of the tournament.
“It’s always great scoring,” said Altidore, who let out pure emotion after netting his 24th goal in a U.S. jersey. “It’s a nice feeling when you score for the national team and to have everybody from my family, literally – my cousins from Haiti, they came so it was really special for me to have them here to watch me play – it was a nice feeling.”
The Americans bossed possession for much of the first half, but the other quality scoring chance went to Honduras in the 19th minute. An advanced Nick Rimando hit a bad pass out of the back that went right to Andy Najar, and the Honduran sent a sizzling shot just over the crossbar as the U.S. goalkeeper scrambled to get back in position.
Honduras came out much sharper in the second half, and threatened the American back line much more than in the opening 45 minutes in part because of the number of substitutions made on both sides.
Rimando was forced to push away a low shot from outside the penalty area in the 54th minute, and substitute Mario Martinez hit sidenetting on an effort in the 69th after getting slipped in on goal.
“You want to kind of get the game done (with another goal) and get the win,” said Klinsmann. “On the other hand, you always know when you sub six players, you kind of interrupt the rhythm. Here and there, the finetuning is not there, there’s always a little bit of a risk – certain understandings are not there, mechanisms are not there – but it is important even if it is just 20 minutes to see a player.”
One of those players that Klinsmann got a chance to see in game action was Miguel Ibarra, the Minnesota United winger who made his international debut with a late substitute appearance.
His entrance came after Honduras had scored. Diskerud was called for a foul, and the ensuing free kick was whipped in by Martinez. Figueroa had created just enough space from Jones, who was playing at centerback for the first time with the U.S., and flicked the ball past Rimando.
“Frustrating not to win,” said Dempsey. “It was an opportunity to play some new guys, get some new faces out there and build upon the future, and try and figure out what our best eleven is going to be moving forward.
“It’s a building process, and that’s what every team is going through right now.”
What do you think of the U.S.’s 1-1 draw with Honduras? Worried about seeing the Americans concede another late equalizer? Which players impressed/disappointed you?
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