The US men's national team closed out September's window of Concacaf World Cup Qualifying with a massive three-point result, exploding for four second-half goals from Antonee Robinson, Ricardo Pepi, Brenden Aaronson and Sebastian Lletget to record a 4-1 victory over Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday evening.
Badly needing the victory after two underwhelming draws to start Octagonal play, the Yanks found themselves with their backs against the wall after a first-half opener from Honduras' Brayan Moya put them in a 1-0 deficit. But an equalizer from Robinson set off a stretch of four unanswered goals the US would manage before full time, fueled in large part by Pepi's heroics on his senior-team debut after he was a surprise inclusion in head coach Gregg Berhalter's starting lineup.
Honduras struck first on 27 minutes through a header from Moya, who went low to nod home a Diego Rodríguez cross past the outstretched arms of diving US goalkeeper Matt Turner.
After Berhalter made three changes coming out of the halftime locker room, the new-look Yanks leveled the contest just after the second-half restart. It was an unlikely source for the equalizer, as Robinson pounced on a loose ball inside the area that popped free after a cross from Lletget took a deflection in the vicinity of a hard-charging Pepi.
The US were dealt a huge blow just past the hour mark, when Christian Pulisic was forced off with an apparent leg injury. The standout attacker initially tried to stay in the match, but eventually went down and was replaced by Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan.
The match stayed in a 1-1 deadlock until the 75th minute, when Pepi came through with a mammoth go-ahead goal for the USMNT – his first at this level. The 18-year-old FC Dallas homegrown phenom rose up to meet a cross from DeAndre Yedlin and snapped home a perfectly placed header, putting the Yanks ahead with 15 minutes to go.
Aaronson then added some insurance after a giveaway from Honduras set Pepi on a breakaway, allowing him to dish it off to the former Philadelphia Union prodigy to effectively put the contest to bed. Lletget added a fourth with a rebound finish in the waning moments of second-half stoppage time, with Pepi's shot creating the chance.
- 27' - HON - Brayan Moya
- 48' - USA - Antonee Robinson
- 75' - USA - Ricardo Pepi
- 86' - USA - Brenden Aaronson
- 90'+2' - USA - Sebastian Lletget
- THE BIG PICTURE: It may not have technically been a must-win scenario, but it was about as close as it gets after the USMNT slogged to two draws to start Qualifying and lost midfielder Weston McKennie to an ill-timed suspension before the Canada game. In that sense, this result will deliver a collective sigh of relief among the team and the fan base as Berhalter's group closes out their September trifecta on a badly-needed high note.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: It’s Pepi’s 75th-minute header that broke a 1-1 deadlock and opened the floodgates for the US to add a pair of late insurance tallies. He couldn’t have picked a more crucial spot for his breakthrough moment on the international stage.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: There’s no way it can be anyone other than Pepi, who was involved in all four goals in some capacity. There’s really not enough praise for the mettle displayed by the young forward when his team needed it most.
- HON: Thursday, October 7 vs. Costa Rica | 8:05 pm ET
- USA: Thursday, October 7 vs. Jamaica | 7:30 pm ET