Set pieces were the key for the U.S. men’s national team on Wednesday night as they were able to come away with the comfortable win over Honduras in freezing St. Paul, Minnesota, to keep them on track to qualify for this year’s World Cup.
Following Sunday’s humiliating 2-0 loss to Canada in Hamilton and intense criticism of head coach Gregg Berhalter for his comments in which he claimed they were “dominant”, the team had to respond in a big way. With the race for the top four spots in Concacaf’s octagonal getting tighter, anything but a win would put them in deep trouble when they regroup again for the March qualifiers.
Several changes were made to the team as they went out again in a 4-3-3 formation. Reggie Cannon replaced Sergino Dest at right-back, while Walker Zimmerman returned to partner with Miles Robinson in central defense. Kellyn Acosta and Luca de la Torre started in midfield in the place of Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah. Up top, Jordan Morris, Ricardo Pepi, and Tim Weah were given the nod.
The U.S. struck after eight minutes from their first set piece when Acosta loft the ball into the area for Weston McKennie to head home. Weah had an excellent chance to double their lead 11 minutes late, but his curling effort was pushed wide by a fingertip save from Honduran goalkeeper Luis Lopez.
The Lille winger had another chance to bag a goal in the 25th minute when Acosta played the ball over the top to find him in the area, but he could not get a clean touch on the ball to put it past Lopez. Antonee Robinson would set up Pepi for his crack at goal three minutes later, but the striker put the ball over the bar.
The Americans looked far more threatening at goal compared with Sunday’s game and they were rewarded with a second goal in the 37th minute from another set piece. Acosta sent the ball into the area, where there was a scramble, for Zimmerman to spin and put the ball past Lopez to the delight of the fans.
The hosts kept the momentum going into the second half, with Weah and McKennie working together just minutes to come close to scoring the team’s third on the night. The midfield magician toyed with two Honduran defenders in the area before passing the ball onto Weah, whose shot was unfortunately stopped by substitute goalkeeper Edrick Menjivar.
In search of more goals, the U.S. finally got there third from a corner kick as Christian Pulisic came off the bench to put his right-footed strike into the back of the net.
It was a solid performance by the team and a good way to bounce back following the debacle in the previous game.
The U.S. remains in second place in the octagonal with 21 points.