SANDY, Utah – Nobody would suggest putting the tape of the US national team’s 1-0 win over Honduras on Tuesday into a time capsule. It was not fluid, it was not comprehensive, it was not pretty.
It was not much of anything, except an example of how to grind out a result against an opponent playing for a scoreless draw.
The US did just that, and now they’re two points clear of Costa Rica at the top of the Hexagonal. They’re five points clear of Mexico, who are in third, and six points clear of Honduras in fourth.
They have eyes on Brazil. A win in September at Costa Rica wouldn’t quite do it mathematically, but it would – realistically – punch the ticket to a seventh straight World Cup.
“You’re definitely getting excited, but I think for me personally – and for the rest of the team – you can’t get overly excited” said defender Omar Gonzalez who, despite several early mental lapses, has now anchored four shutouts in six Hexagonal outings. “We still have to get those points. That’s our mission and I think everyone’s really focused.”
That focus was readily apparent more in the second half than the first against Honduras, who slowed the game down to a crawl in the opening stanza. The US found only frustration, but came out after the break and upped the tempo. It resulted in a pretty team goal courtesy of the scorching hot Jozy Altidore in the 73rd minute, and several other chances as they wore Honduras down.
All part of the plan, said head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
“A good team finds ways to score and that's what they did. They scored and they deserve a huge compliment,” Klinsmann said. “In a game like this, what really matters is that you keep going and be patient and find the goal.”
“Jozy has just been a beast as of late,” said Graham Zusi, who helped the play along with a clever dummy that put Fabian Johnson through on the overlap for the pull-back to Altidore near the spot. “He just can’t stop scoring, and when you have that, you’re going to put yourself in good position.”
There’s no denying that’s exactly where the US are, now. Klinsmann’s team has gotten it done by hook or by crook, and the spoils are a two-month break followed by a game that could wrap a bow on the whole qualifying round.
“We’re sitting pretty,” Gonzalez said afterward. “Next time we meet up, we know we’ve played some good football. We can just keep progressing from there.”
All the way, it seems, to Brazil.