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October 10, 2009
U.S. Books World Cup Trip with 3-2 win

By Michael Lewis
Big Apple Soccer Editor

Landon Donovan had the game winner that pushed the U.S. through to South Africa.
Landon Donovan had the game winner that pushed the U.S. through to South Africa.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras -- The U.S. National Team could not have mapped out a more frantic, crazy finish to their latest World Cup clinching.

Their thrilling 3-2 qualifying win over Honduras Saturday night had everything you wanted in a soccer match, from momentum changes to unlikely heroes to surprising goats.

The U.S. survived a wild, heart-thumping second half of end-to-end action and five goals to book their sixth consecutive World Cup berth -- in South Africa next year.

Unfortunately, most of the U.S. soccer community could not watch this classic confrontation because it was only available via closed circuit TV in bars and restaurants.

The Americans were helped by the fact that Honduran veteran Carlos Pavon fired an 87th-minute penalty kick over the net after U.S. defender Carlos Bocanegra was called for a handball in the area. A couple of minutes later, Pavon sent a head over the crossbar.

Conor Casey, who had never scored an international goal in 14 appearances before last night, turned out to be the man of the hour, or an hour and a half, striking twice and helping set up the third goal.

The Hondurans struck in the opening minute of the second half. After Oguchi Onyweu gave up the ball at midfield, the defender fouled Pavon just outside the left side of the penalty area. Julio De Leon then fired an 18-yard free kick into the upper left corner out of the reach of an outstretched Tim Howard for a 1-0 lead.

The stadium erupted as Honduran supporters threw confetti to celebrate. They certainly were patient enough. The crowd, estimated at 45,000, had filled the stadium some four hours prior to kickoff, entertaining themselves with signing, dancing and chanting before the main event.

The Americans, however, silenced the crowd when they countered 10 minutes later on a Casey goal. A long ball was played toward the penalty area. Charlie Davies won the ball and headed it to Casey, playing in place of forward Jozy Altidore. Casey then outjumped goalkeeper Noel Valladares and headed it into the net on one bounce for a 1-1 tie.

Only a minute after coming on as a sub in the 64th minute, David Suazo almost gave the Hondurans the lead as he fired a shot, forcing Howard to stretch high to knock away his point-blank shot.

But it was only a minute later that Casey made himself felt again. This time Landon Donovan gave him a perfect pass. The Colorado Rapids player split two defenders and then fired a low shot off his right foot past Valladares into the lower right hand corner for a 2-1 U.S. advantage in the 66th minute.

Casey helped set up the third U.S. goal, although he did not get an assist as De Leon fouled him some 22 yards out on the left side. Donovan then stepped up and launched a free kick that wound up in the upper right side of the net for a 3-1 lead in the 71st minute.

But the Hondurans wouldn't give up. They thought they had a goal by David Suarez in the 75th minute, but he was ruled to be offside.

Their hard work paid off three minutes later. Second-half sub Ramon Nunez forced Howard to come out of the net on the right side. Howard, however, wound up in no man's land as Honduras worked the ball around and De Leon shot from the top of the box to cut the lead to 3-2.

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