USMNT vs. Honduras score: USA cruise to needed win as Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic score in St. Paul
The Americans picked up three crucial points in World Cup qualifying on a chilly night in Minnesota
Fighting bitterly cold temperatures in Minnesota, the United States men's national team won a crucial World Cup qualifier on Wednesday, topping Honduras 3-0. In the first half, Weston McKennie netted the opener and Walker Zimmerman doubled the score before the break as Gregg Berhalter's team earned three points without Tyler Adams and Chris Richards. Star winger Christian Pulisic, who had been out of form, did not start the match but came on as a second-half substitute and quickly made it 3-0 with a loose ball in the box.
The Americans scored all three goals from set pieces, and they remained in second place in the Concacaf qualifying table with three games remaining (all in March).
McKennie's winner came early in just the eighth minute, as he headed home a ball from Adams' replacement, Kellyn Acosta. Take a look:
Acosta also played a role in the second goal, lofting another fine ball into the box with it falling to Zimmerman before he turned in front of goal and tucked it away. It was an impressive delivery as the United States got their first goals from dead-ball situations during the final round of World Cup qualifying on Wednesday night.
"We want to be in the positive [on set pieces] and we think that's a big advantage that we have, and we haven't been converting our opportunities," USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter said. "But looking at the process of it rather than the results of it, we've had good opportunities to score, and we just haven't scored.
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"...In terms of the process, I've been happy with both offensive and defensive set pieces. And tonight we got conversion from it."
At the half, Honduras made a triple change and one of the players taken off was Buba Lopez, their starting goalkeeper. He had to reportedly be treated for hypothermia with an IV due to the temperatures during the match (the wind chill was below zero and temperatures were in the single digits). Romell Quioto's halftime exit was also due to complications from the cold, although he was stable after the game.
The victory caps a six-point window that puts the USMNT on the verge of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup ahead of the final matches in March.
Honduras were already knocked out of contention for the World Cup and showed why in a match during which they were outshot 16-2. They only produced an expected goals total of .05 from the match compared to 2.03 for the United States but that doesn't show the full dominance as the USA's best chances came from set plays.
Holding 71 percent of the possession the United States weren't pressured at all and didn't allow a shot on goal all game.
Here are some takeaways from the match
1. It was historically cold
Honduras players being taken out due to the extreme cold showed the dangers of playing in these conditions. Berhalter was asked about it after the game, which was the coldest World Cup Qualifier ever played by the United States.
"We provided their staff and referees with warm weather gear," he said. "And trying to make it a safe environment for them to play when we go down to those countries and it's 90 degrees and 90% dew point and it's unbearable humidity and guys are getting dehydrated and cramping up and getting heat exhaustion, you know that's the nature of our competition. When we scheduled this game in this location, you have to go by average temperatures daily average temperatures, and it was the best guess. We want to minimize travel we knew we were going to be playing cold weather in two of the games, and we figured to do it in the third game."
While it's tough to ensure that games are played in perfect conditions, there is a difference between the match being cold like it was in Hamilton, Ontario on Sunday and subzero like Wednesday's match. Concacaf has a wide range of climates which cause unique issues for teams around the region but the United States has the most venues in the region to utilize climate to their advantage.
US Soccer did provide head coverings and heated benches to Honduras, but the opponents weren't as well prepared as the United State's national team, which was outfitted by the Minnesota Vikings.
2. Lively Luca
It's hard to judge performances against a team like Honduras but you can only play the team in front of you, and Luca de la Torre passed that challenge with flying colors, picking up the coach's man of the match award from Gregg Berhalter. A dynamic presence in midfield, de la Torre completed 89 percent of his 46 passes while making a team high 11 ball recoveries. And when the 23-year-old got the ball against Honduras, he immediately looked to make things happen with it leading to a good mix of take-ons, through balls, and crosses to transition from midfield to attack allowing McKennie to operate in a freer role.
With the third midfield spot up for grabs, de la Torre won't pass Yunus Musah on the depth chart with his performance -- just like Kellyn Acosta was stellar and can offer something different to Tyler Adams -- but it's a performance that makes Berhalter think, especially when the second team midfield is likely de la Torre, Acosta, and Gianluca Busio right now.
3. Sigh of relief for Pulisic
It wasn't the greatest of goals, but it doesn't matter. Pulisic needed this one.
Initially, people were unsure why Pulisic was subbed on with the team already ahead 2-0 due to the risk for injury but his elation from scoring showed exactly why. After coming off the bench he could've had a brace too as his second goal was called back due to a Brenden Aaronson offsides.
In a match that Pulisic likely wasn't happy to be on the bench for, making the best of limited opportunities is the best way to ensure that he isn't back on the bench in the future.
Menjivar is down again
After coming together with Miles Robinson following a set play, the Honduras keeper is receiving treatment for the second time after coming on at half. He'll continue but he has been put through the ringer defending the ultra attacking United States men's national team.
More subs are coming in as Brenden Aaronson and Jesus Ferreira enter
The United States keep rolling but Tim Weah picks up a yellow card for a kick out at Figueroa. The subs will see Ricardo Pepi and Tim Weah exit after putting in good shifts but not finding the back of the net.
Pulisic makes it 3-0. That was a tidy finish on a lose ball in the box. This game is over. Three big points incoming.
The Chelsea man was actually setting a pick for Zimmerman, and the ball ended up falling to him.
Every foray forward is turning into a United States chance
No clue how this game isn't out of sight as Menjivar is forced into multiple saves almost by the minute. Honduras makes another change with Devron Garcia making his international debut but as Christian Pulisic gets ready, it's only a matter of time until the United States finds a third goal.
Kellyn Acosta's set play delivery is so accurate tonight
Following another set play, Acosta almost bends a set play delivery into the net as he forces Menijivar into his third save of the second half. The resulting corner almost caused issues too as the keeper dropped it in the box but the United States were unable to score from the chance.
USA looking to kill this one off
It's all USA in this early part of the second half as they look to kill the game off. Honduras offering very little as Pulisic and Aaronson warm up.
Honduras makes a few changes at the half
Already down 2-0 Honduras will switch things up as Romell Quioto, Luis Lopez and Diego Rodriguez are out for Bryan Rochez, Edrick Menjivar, and Anthony Lozano. A bit of a shift as they look to get back into things.