Honduras rallies to beat US 2-1 in WCup qualifier

Jerry Bengtson took advantage of a defensive mix-up to score the

winning goal in the 79th minute as Honduras beat the United States

2-1 Wednesday in the opener of the final qualifying round for next

year’s World Cup.

Clint Dempsey put the Americans ahead in the 36th minute but the

Americans, using a new-look defense that featured Omar Gonzalez and

Timmy Chandler, gave up the lead when Juan Carlos Garcia leveled

the score in the 40th at San Pedro Sula.

Bengtson, who plays for Major League Soccer’s New England

Revolution, scored the winner when defender Geoff Cameron and

goalkeeper Tim Howard both went for a pass by Maynor Figueroa to

Oscar Boniek Garcia. That allowed Garcia to tap the ball across to

Bengtson for a shot into an open net, and Gonzalez was too late to

challenge him.

Playing without Landon Donovan, a veteran of three World Cups

who is unsure whether to continue his career, the 28th-ranked U.S.

was under pressure for much of the match. Honduras had the better

chances, forcing Howard into several difficult saves.

Gonzalez had a chance to redeem himself, getting his head on a

corner kick by Graham Zusi in the final seconds of stoppage time.

But his shot from the 6-yard box sailed well above the

crossbar.

The U.S. lost its final-round opener for the first time in five

games since the ”hexagonal” format was adopted in qualifying for

the 1998 tournament. The Americans are seeking their seventh

straight tip to football’s showcase.

The top three nations in the six-team group represent North and

Central America and the Caribbean at next year’s tournament in

Brazil, and the No. 4 country advances to a playoff for another

berth, likely against New Zealand.

Gonzalez replaced captain Carlos Bocanegra in central defense,

and Chandler was in the starting lineup to play right back in his

competitive debut for the Americans – tying the German-American to

the U.S. team.

The game marked somewhat of a generational change for the U.S.

defense, with Chandler (22), Gonzalez (24), Cameron (27) and Fabian

Johnson (25) in the backline. The Americans had played 16

consecutive qualifiers since 2008 with at least one 30-year-old

defender in the starting lineup.

The U.S. went ahead when Jozy Altidore played the ball to

Jermaine Jones, who flicked the ball over the defense. In full

stride, Dempsey volleyed the ball with his right foot past

goalkeeper Noel Valladares from eight yards. With his 31st goal in

92 appearances, Dempsey moved past Brian McBride into sole

possession of third place on the U.S. career scoring list. Dempsey

has six of the Americans’ 12 goals in qualifying for 2014.

But for the fourth straight road qualifier, the U.S. scored

first only to give up the lead.

Oscar Boniek Garcia’s corner kick went all the way to the

opposite side of the field, bounced four times and was played back

to the center by Victor Bernandez after no American chased the ball

down. Figueroa chested the pass up to Juan Carlos Garcia, who with

his back to the goal scored on an overhead kick from 10 yards that

went to Howard’s right, leaving the goalkeeper bent over in shock.

It was Garcia’s first goal in 18 international appearances.

Honduras appeared for a moment to take the lead in the 56th

minute, but Carlo Costly was ruled offside when he slotted the ball

past Howard.