For the second-straight match the United States faded to allow a late equalizer, this time Honduras pulling level in Boca Raton, Florida. Just as Enner Valencia had done for Ecuador in Landon Donovan’s sendoff game last Friday, Maynor Figueroa leveled in the final five minutes, having been left unmarked to head into a vacated net with a goal that was symptomatic of Jurgen Klinsmann’s side’s drop in standards in the second half of their friendly international. The contest at FAU Stadium had begun much brighter for the hosts, with Jozy Altidore marking his return to the city where his soccer life got going by bagging a much-needed goal from Michael Bradley’s assist in just the 10th minute.
The goal highlighted an impressive start for a U.S. side, which had been boosted by the arrival of several experienced internationals from MLS since a 1-1 draw with Ecuador. Jermaine Jones started in an unfamiliar central-defensive role, allowing Mix Diskerud to continue his run as a deep-lying midfielder alongside Michael Bradley and with Clint Dempsey joining Altidore up front. For the most part it worked well in the opening half, but Klinsmann will have been far less pleased by a lackluster display after the interval. A Honduras side, which lost all three of its group games at the 2014 World Cup and is rebuilding under coach Hernan Medford, had the better of the second 45 minutes and by the end were the team looking most likely to come out on top.
It was certainly a match of mixed results for Klinsmann, as he tinkers with his formula at this early stage of preparations toward the ultimate challenge at the World Cup in Russia in four years’ time. The key experiment on Tuesday was fielding 32-year-old Jones, who did so well as an all-action midfielder at the World Cup, being deployed at center-back. The recent signing for the New England Revolution looked comfortable for the most part, as did Diskerud in Jones’s former holding role.
Encouragingly, brought back from his former No.10 position, Diskerud showed the greater tenacity needed for the position twice in the buildup to the U.S. goal. That allowed Bradley to take over and, after a neat combination with Dempsey, he played a trademark chipped through ball for Altidore, who cut in from the left of the penalty area and fired low inside the near post. The defending, and arguably the goalkeeping, was subpar, but it was still an impressive effort for Altidore as he put his disappointing time at club level with Premier League Sunderland to one side. The goal was significant, too, in taking Altidore to fifth on the U.S. all-time scoring list with 24, level with Joe-Max Moore.
By that point Dempsey had already put an opportunity wide after Altidore stole the ball but played a pass marginally behind his forward partner. The U.S. continued to look dangerous in transition, while Honduras’s only real effort came after U.S. goalkeeper Nick Rimando gifted the ball straight to the visitors’ main threat Andy Najar, who sent a shot over the crossbar.
It was a different story after the break, though. The U.S., often sloppy on the ball, left themselves too open without it and Jones was left vulnerable to player’s streaming toward him on more than one occasion. While he produced a couple of fine saving challenges, he also showed an unsurprising lack of nous in another instant. He was caught out, too, as Honduras were rewarded for their improved display in the 86th minute.
Diskerud, previously criticized as being too lightweight, lunged into a tackle deep inside his own half to concede a free-kick in a dangerous area. From the set-piece Mario Martinez supplied a fine in-swinging delivery and veteran defender Figueroa found space behind Jones to head into the net before Rimando could get there as he came rushing from his goal.