SIGH OF RELIEF

United States’ Clint Dempsey, right, fights for the ball with Honduras’ Mauricio Sabillon left, during the second half of an international friendly soccer game in Miami, Fla. Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011. Dempsey scored the only goal of the game in the USA’s 1-0 win.
AP Photo/Jeffrey M. Boan
AP Photo/Jeffrey M. Boan

It took four matches for his first win as U.S. men’s national team coach, but now, German-born Jurgen Klinsmann can breathe a sigh of relief as the U.S. defeated Honduras, 1-0, in an international friendly Saturday night in Miami’s Sunlight Stadium.

Forward Clint Dempsey, who plays for London’s Fulham FC in the English Premier League, scored from an excellent individual effort at the 36th minute.

Klinsmann replaced American Bob Bradley as coach in July and in his previous three games, played to ties against Mexico and Costa Rica and a loss versus Belgium. The team and the USSF were all anxious to see Klinsmann get his first win; there were those in the soccer fraternity who were beginning to question the move to Klinsmann, so this win over Honduras is timely in many ways.

“It’s huge for all of us. You don’t ever want to go a long period of time without winning,’’ said U. S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, who had a stellar game with crucial saves that kept the U.S. in the game throughout. “We performed well, I think, and we’re trying to set a foundation, but ultimately you have to win. That was the focus coming in.’’ Howard tied Tony Meola for second among U.S. goalkeepers with 37 wins behind Kasey Keller’s 53.

Dempsey’s goal, his 23rd for the U. S., came when he controlled a cross from Brek Shea on the right side, moved the ball away from traffic on his right foot to his left and blasted a left-footed shot that beat Honduran goalkeeper Donis Escobar to his right that found the roof of the goal. “I didn’t know if the ball was going to come through, I got a little lucky,’’ Dempsey said. “I took my time. I was going to take it with my right foot but saw it was going to be blocked, so I pulled it back to my left and couldn’t have hit it any sweeter.’’

Honduras were not wanting for chances; forward Jerry Bengston found himself with a one-on-one breakaway versus Howard in the 18th minute from about 18 yards, but the Honduran failed to puncture Howard’s defense; likewise veteran forward Carlos Costly, whose clear left-footed shot on goal from just outside the penalty box in the 26th minute crashed into the side of the net.

Klinsmann pulled a surprise in the starting lineup when he used German midfielder Danny Williams, who only eight days earlier received his U.S. passport. Williams is the son of a U.S. serviceman and a German mother; he plays for Hoffenheim in the German Bundesliga and is one of four German players with African-American background in the U.S. pool of players.

Both teams played well in a very evenly-played game; scoring opportunities were lost on both sides, but Dempsey’s individual effort, supported by Howard’s performance, made the difference on the night. Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman did a good job at central midfield for the U.S. Shea was always dangerous on the left flank, and U.S. full backs Steve Cherundolo and Tim Chandler supported the offense with effective overlapping runs. Honduras got good play from Costly and Bengston and also from midfielder Deleon.

Seattle Wins Open Cup

A record crowd of 35,615 in Seattle saw the Sounders defeat the Chicago Fire, 2-0, to win its third straight U. S. Open Cup title last Tuesday night. Goals from Fredy Montero and Osvaldo Alonso sealed the win for the three-year-old MLS expansion team.

Montero’s goal came off a rebounded shot by Jeff Parke in the 78th minute and Alonso scored on brilliant individual effort as he dribbled around Chicago goalkeeper Johnson and two defenders to complete the victory in stoppage time. It was a Cinderella ending from goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who will retire at the end of the season.

Seattle is the first club in more than 40 years – since the New York Greek-Americans in 1967-69 – to win three straight titles in the oldest competition in American soccer. “To win three in a row is something very special, very unique,’’ said Sounders coach Sigi Schmid. Seattle is still in the CONCACAF Champions League and clinched an MLS playoff berth; it already won the Cascadia Cup, a competition between it and area rivals Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers. Says Keller, referring to the MLS Cup, “We’re not done yet. We still have one more very, very important competition left.’’

In other MLS games last week, the New York Red Bulls (9-7-16, 43 pts.) defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-0, on Tuesday, Oct. 4; Luke Rodgers and Thierry Henry scored to lead New York, which is in a tie with Houston Dynamo for third MLS Cup playoffs wild card spot but has the edge on goal difference. Vancouver beat Real Salt Lake, 3-0, and San Jose topped New England, 2-1.

Galaxy Wins Shield

The Los Angeles Galaxy (18-4-10) won the Supporters’ Shield, the annual trophy for the team with the best regular season record in MLS. It took the honor when the Seattle Sounders (16-7-9), the team that was challenging Los Angeles for the trophy, lost to the Philadelphia Union, 2-0, on Saturday night. Los Angeles failed to win the title on its own when it lost, 2-0, to hosts New York Red Bulls on Tuesday night, Oct. 4. In the Philadelphia (11-7-14) win, goals came from Freddy Adu and Brian Carroll; the win put the Union atop the Eastern Conference standings with 47 points.

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