A brace from skipper Clint Dempsey saw United States open their CONCACAF Gold Cup defence with a 2-1 victory over Honduras on Tuesday.
USA’s bid to win their sixth Gold Cup title started successfully in Dallas, although coach Jurgen Klinsmann may have some concerns about how his team played, with Honduras arguably enjoying the better of the contest.
After USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan was forced into two early saves, a scrappy opening 20 minutes saw three times as many fouls (9) as shots (3) with the home side failing to open up Honduras’ defence effectively.
But in the 25th minute, Dempsey craned his neck to nod a rebound into the net from six yards after Honduras failed to deal with a corner.
It was another set-piece that cost Honduras a second goal in the 64th minute, with Dempsey heading Michael Bradley’s free-kick inside the back post when left unmarked.
While Honduras would hit back soon after thanks to substitute Carlos Discua, the USA managed to hold on for their fifth consecutive victory, while Jorge Luis Pinto’s Honduras extended their poor pre-tournament form into the Gold Cup proper.
Honduras started the strongest with Guzan quickly into action in just the second minute, getting his right hand down to parry Anthony Lozano’s shot.
Andy Najar, who would be a regular menace for the USA’s right-hand side of defence, cut in from the wing four minutes later but again Guzan made the save, acrobatically tipping the ball over the bar.
Guzan was the busier of the two goalkeepers in the first half but it was his counterpart Donis Escober who had to pick the ball out of his net after 24 minutes.
Honduras could not clear Bradley’s corner and Escober stopped Jozy Altidore’s follow-up shot with his boot only for Dempsey to convert.
While possession was almost equal before half-time, Honduras spent more time in their forward half than their hosts, with Klinsmann’s men generally attacking on the break.
One of those counter-attacks should have led to a second goal in the 31st minute but Escober was quickly off his line to deny DeAndre Yedlin in a one-on-one after a fine run and pass from Fabian Johnson.
The visitors’ pressing was causing USA problems with both Lozano and Alfredo Mejia failing to hit the target after winning possession from consecutive goal kicks, while in first-half stoppage time, Escober came out of his box to intercept a pass to Dempsey before Honduras surged only for Najar to shoot over the bar.
The USA continued to lack fluency in the second half but began to pin Honduras back more regularly, before Dempsey doubled their lead to notch his fourth goal in his past three internationals.
The visitors deservedly got on the scoreboard soon after, with Discua surging from midfield to collect Wilmer Crisanto’s pass and the 30-year-old finished past Guzan in the 69th minute.
Pinto’s men were almost handed an equaliser in the final 10 minutes, with Guzan palming a cross onto Eddie Hernandez but the ball rebounded the wrong side of the post for Honduras as their winless run extended to four matches.