U.S. soccer loses to Honduras

Posted: Sunday, September 02, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) -- RFK Stadium looked like it had been taken over by a Central American country.

Hondurans danced in the corners of the field and through much of the stands, celebrating a 3-2 victory over the United States in an unusual Saturday morning game.

The Americans slowly walked off, their 16-year home unbeaten streak in World Cup qualifying over.

''What an atrocious 20 minutes,'' U.S. coach Bruce Arena said.

Not since May 1985 had the Americans lost a home qualifier, and not since November 1960 had they given up three goals in a home qualifier. Defensive breakdowns gave Honduras four breakaways, and U.S. midfielder Earnie Stewart missed a penalty kick late in the first half, swinging the momentum.

Still, the Americans probably will qualify for their fourth straight World Cup.

''I'm sure there are a lot of teams that wish they'd sit where we do right now,'' Arena said.

Costa Rica (5-1-1) won 2-0 Saturday at Trinidad and Tobago (0-6-1) and is first in the-six team finals with 16 points. The United States (4-2-1) is second with 13 points, followed by Honduras (3-2-2) with 11, Jamaica (2-2-2) with eight and Mexico (2-3-1) with seven.

The top three qualify for next year's tournament in Japan and South Korea, and the Americans have three games remaining: Wednesday at Costa Rica, Oct. 7 against Jamaica at Foxboro, Mass., and Nov. 11 at Trinidad.

''We're still in good position,'' Stewart said. ''We have points.''

Many in the raucous sellout crowd of 54,282 arrived long before the 10 a.m. start and made RFK Stadium seem like a Honduran colony. The U.S. Soccer Federation tried to limit sales to tickets in the lower deck to its fans and affiliates, but it didn't work.

About 70 percent of the sellout crowd rooted for the Central Americans, and the top deck rocked when Honduras scored.

''It felt almost like we were home,'' Honduras coach Ramon Maradiaga said.

That didn't please the U.S. team.

''Only in America, I guess, we're fighting for a home-field advantage,'' Arena said.

Even the field looked like one in Central America, with streamers and flares flying out of the stands along with bottles that just missed players.

''Our fans never used to throw things,'' U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel said. ''I think they've taken it upon themselves to throw things because we get them thrown at us when we go abroad. Both sides are wrong.''

The USSF was shocked.

''It makes this venue questionable in the future,'' USSF executive director Dan Flynn said.

Stewart scored both U.S. goals, giving him five of the team's nine in the qualifying finals.

His left-footed shot from about 15 yards put the United States ahead in the seventh minute, but Milton Nunez tied it in the 28th off a quick counterattack.

Stewart had a chance to regain the lead in the 43rd after referee Mauricio Navarro of Canada called a borderline penalty on Milton Reyes for knocking down Jovan Kirovski in the penalty area.

Stewart went for the right corner with the penalty kick and goalkeeper Noel Valladares dived and batted away the ball with his left hand.

''I made a change at the last minute to kick it to the other side,'' Stewart said. ''Stupid.''

Honduras went ahead in the 53rd after Navarro awarded another questionable penalty kick when Jeff Agoos pushed down Reyes with his right arm just into the edge of the penalty area. Carlos Pavon slid the ball to Friedel's right for his 15th goal in 14 qualifiers. Nunez made it 3-1 in the 77th.

The Americans had allowed just two goals in the first six games of the final qualifying round.

''Without being critical on any particular player, I think David Regis broke down,'' Arena said. ''He had breakdowns that led to every goal. That has to be addressed.''

Stewart got his second goal in the 84th when he miskicked his shot and the ball floated over Valladares, hit the crossbar and bounced just across the line.

The loss might have shaken an American team that has now lost consecutive qualifiers for the first time since 1980. The intensity of qualifying was noticed by 19-year-old Landon Donovan, who became the youngest American in a World Cup qualifier in 16 years and the third-youngest ever.

''Obviously, a different game,'' said Donovan, who played well. ''A lot more passion.''

Notes: The Americans had been 14-0-5 on home qualifiers since a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica on May 31, 1985, at Torrance, Calif., and hadn't given up three goals in 34 home qualifiers since a 3-3 tie against Mexico on Nov. 6, 1960. ... The 10 a.m. start was dictated by U.S. television.

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