What began as a scintillating foray from Honduras and an enthralling finish fizzled out via Clint Dempsey's brace, which gave the U.S. men's national team a marginal 2-1 victory in their CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A opener Tuesday night in Frisco, Texas.
Jorge Luis Pinto, who came within a whisker of leading Costa Rica to the quarterfinals of last year's World Cup, discharged his energetic pressing style with Honduras from the onset.
His side nearly took an early lead with a sequence that kickstarted a frenetic opening 45 minutes. Forward Anthony Lozano burst through the U.S. back line, left multiple defenders in his wake and fired a low shot at Brad Guzan, who was there to meet it and palm away to spare the Americans' blushes.
Despite being somewhat overcome by the occasion in the early going, Jurgen Klinsmann's side found a revitalizing breakthrough five minutes shy of the half-hour mark. A well-worked corner kick, orchestrated by DeAndre Yedlin and Michael Bradley, made its way across the box. The captain's cross pinged around before Jozy Altidore's shot at 'keeper Donis Escober popped up for Dempsey to snap his header home from close range and give the Americans a 1-0 lead.
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Minutes later, Yedlin squandered an opportunity to provide the U.S. with a much-needed cushion. Fabian Johnson sliced through an open channel - running from his left back position - and slipped the Tottenham defender through on goal, only to be denied by Escober, who closed down the angle well.
In the second half, the sloppy play continued to rear its head before Dempsey provided what would prove to be the match-winner. A looping and inviting free-kick delivery from Bradley set up Dempsey - ghosting through to the back post - and exposed glaring deficiencies in the Honduran defense, as the Seattle Sounders forward cashed in on poor marking to notch his second goal of the game, giving the U.S. some breathing room and a firmer stronghold on the match.
Carlos Discua cut the lead in half in the 70th minute, however. The midfielder took a good touch to skip past Ventura Alvarado and expertly sent a shot over Guzan's left shoulder to pull the Hondurans back within one, setting up a nervy final 20 minutes.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, Bradley's attempt at goal from a direct free kick nearly caught Escober off guard, but the 'keeper was alert enough to prevent the captain from extending the lead even further.
It didn't always look pretty, but a gritty performance and perseverance on display against a well-drilled Honduran outfit will undoubtedly serve Klinsmann's delegation well as it continues Group A action on Friday. Panama and Honduras square off before a U.S.-Haiti matchup rounds off a doubleheader in Foxborough, Mass.
United States Starting XI (subs):
Brad Guzan; Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, Ventura Alvarado, Timothy Chandler (Brad Evans, 63'); Kyle Beckerman, Gyasi Zardes (Graham Zusi, 87'), Michael Bradley (C), DeAndre Yedlin; Jozy Altidore (Chris Wondolowski, 59'), Clint Dempsey.
Honduras Starting XI (subs):
Donis Escober; Wilmer Crisanto, Maynor Figueroa (C), Johnny Palacios, Henry Figueroa (Eddie Hernandez, 75'), Brayan Beckeles; Mario Martínez (Carlos Discua, 69'), Bryan Acosta, Alfredo Mejía, Andy Najar (Romell Quioto, 62'); Antony Lozano.