FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Clint Dempsey scored twice on headers in front his home state fans, and the United States opened defense of its CONCACAF Gold Cup title with a 2-1 victory over Honduras on Tuesday night.
Dempsey’s goals in the 25th and 64th minutes were created from crosses from Michael Bradley, wearing the captain’s arm band in his 100th international appearance.
Dempsey’s big night came in the same area where the East Texas native trained as a youth, and he boosted the Americans to 13-0 in Gold Cup openers. With 43 international goals, he is 14 behind Landon Donovan’s American record.
Carlos Discua scored his first international goal in the 69th minute for Honduras, a semifinalist in the last three Gold Cups.
“It wasn’t our best performance, but we’re happy to get three points from our first game,” Dempsey said.
It was the first competitive match for the U.S. since losing to Belgium in overtime in the second round of last year’s World Cup. The Americans, 29-1-2 in Gold Cup group play, meet Haiti on Friday and Panama on Monday. Haiti tied Panama 1-1 in the doubleheader opener.
U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan had a couple of tough saves in the first few minutes on a muggy night before a sellout crowd of 22,357 at the home of Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas.
The first goal developed when DeAndre Yedlin played a short corner kick to Bradley, who crossed on a bounce to the far post. Henry Figueroa’s clearance attempt back to Bradley’s side was picked up at the side of the 6-yard box by Jozy Altidore, who took a touch and shot. Goalkeeper Donis Escobar kicked the ball out with his right foot and it popped up to Dempsey, who nodded it in from 6 yards.
Bradley’s free kick from the flank led to the second goal. Escobar stayed on his line and an unmarked Dempsey jumped 4 yards out and headed inside the far post.
After a sluggish start, the U.S. controlled the pace in the second half until Discua took a nifty pass from Wilmer Crisanto and touched the ball past a standing Ventura Alvarado before beating Guzan over the keeper’s left shoulder. Alvarado, who also had been eligible to play for Mexico, played his first competitive match for the U.S. and became tied to the American national team.
Honduras had a couple of good opportunities in the final 20 minutes, including when Guzan knocked a ball toward Eddie Hernandez, who had an open net but couldn’t control the ball before it went out.
Bradley, a son of former U.S. coach Bob Bradley, became the 16th American male to make 100 international appearances. At 27 years, 341 days, he is the fourth-youngest American after Landon Donovan (26-96), Cobi Jones (27-239) and Marcelo Balboa (27-320).
If the U.S. wins the Gold Cup, it would qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. If another nation wins, it would meet the Americans in a playoff for the Confederations Cup berth.
Honduras controlled the pace early, twice testing Guzan in the first 6 minutes while outshooting the Americans 6-3 before halftime.
Anthony Lozano forced Guzan to make a diving, one-handed save from close range. Guzan tipped a shot from Andy Najar just over the crossbar about 3 minutes later, and Najar was close again just before halftime on another hard shot that Guzan let sail high.