USA’s Bobby Wood (2-R) celebrates with teammates Michael Bradley (L), Kellyn Acosta (2-L), Clint Dempsey (3-L) and Paul Arriola (R) after scoring against Honduras during their 2018 World Cup football qualifier match in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on September 5, 2017. Orlando SIERRA / AFP
Hamburg striker Bobby Wood scored a late equaliser to salvage a crucial 1-1 draw for the United States in their World Cup qualifier with Honduras here Tuesday.
Wood bundled in an 85th-minute leveller just 12 minutes after coming on as a substitute to rescue a point for the Americans in sweltering conditions at the Olimpico Metropolitano Stadium.
The result means that Bruce Arena’s side still have automatic qualification in their own hands, with a home match against Panama next month followed by an away game against Trinidad & Tobago.
If the US win both of those games, they will be assured of reaching next year’s finals in Russia.
“That’s a huge point for the US team,” US coach Arena said afterwards. “I’m really proud of our team,” he added.
Arena insisted the team had not set out to play for a draw — and added that the US path to Russia is still far from straightforward.
“We didn’t come here to play for a point. We fell behind a goal and tried to get it back. The team deserves credit for getting a point,” he said.
“There’s not even a crack open in the door to Russia for us. There’s a lot of work to be done.”
It was a lucky escape for the US, who had been beaten in their previous game on Friday against Costa Rica and could not afford a second defeat here.
Arena rolled the dice with seven changes from the team beaten by Costa Rica, but the gamble appeared set to backfire for long periods.
The US had carved out an early opening when Clint Dempsey laid off to Seattle team-mate Jordan Morris only for the striker to fire wide.
Houston Dynamo forward Alberth Elis meanwhile forced a save from Brad Guzan in the 23rd minute, cutting in from the left flank and shooting low. Brad Guzan was equal to the danger, safely gathering the shot.
That Elis effort turned out to be a harbinger however for Honduras’s opening goal. A low pass from Alexander Lopez caught the US defence napping, and as Omar Gonzalez scrambled to cover, Romell Quioto nipped in.
Gonzalez made a desperate lunge in an attempt to intercept Quioto but the striker skipped clear and curled a superb shot in off the post past Guzan.
The best US chance of the opening 45 minutes came when Christian Pulisic played a one-two with Morris only to see his shot saved.
There was little more to cheer for the US fans in the second half, as Arena’s men struggled to make any impression on the hosts.
The best chances of the second half fell to the Hondurans, with Lopez seeing a thunderous shot on 61 minutes parried by Guzan.
Anthony Lozano also continued to cause problems, and saw his shot crash into the outside of the stanchion on 77th minute after he had skipped clear of Michael Bradley.
With what would have been a disastrous defeat beckoning, the US were given a lifeline five minutes from time with a free-kick in a dangerous position.
Kellyn Acosta stepped up to curl a shot against the bar and in the ensuing melee, Wood coolly tucked away the finish.