The U.S. beat Honduras 1-0 to stay atop its qualifying group for next year’s soccer World Cup.
Jozy Altidore scored in his fourth straight game for the U.S., tying the best streak in national team history, after 73 minutes at a sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City. Also last night, Costa Rica defeated visiting Panama 2-0 on second-half goals from Brian Ruiz and Celso Borges.
The U.S., which began its final regional qualifying round Feb. 6 with a 2-1 loss in Honduras, won three straight games this month as it seeks a seventh straight appearance at soccer’s four-yearly championship, which is scheduled from June 12 to July 13, 2014, in Brazil.
The U.S. leads the six-nation North, Central America and Caribbean group with 13 points through six of 10 games. Costa Rica is second with 11 points, followed by Mexico with eight. Honduras has seven, one more than Panama, with Jamaica last on two points.
The top three teams advance to the 32-nation World Cup, with the fourth-place finisher entering a two-game playoff against Oceania group winner New Zealand for another spot.
Last night’s victory extended the U.S.’s unbeaten home run in World Cup qualifying to 25 matches -- including 23 wins -- stretching back to Sept. 1, 2001, when Honduras won 3-2 in Washington, D.C.
After failing to qualify from 1954 through 1986, the U.S. has played at every World Cup since 1990, making the quarterfinals in 2002 and the round of 16 in 1994 and 2010.
The U.S. visits Costa Rica on Sept. 6 and hosts Mexico four days later in Columbus, Ohio. Its last home game is Oct. 11 against Jamaica in Kansas City, four days before it completes its qualifying schedule at Panama.
U.S. captain Clint Dempsey, making his 99th appearance for his country, had the first chance against Honduras as he sent a header from a corner kick wide after seven minutes. The visitor’s best chance came a minute before halftime as 2010 Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year Andy Najar shot straight at goalkeeper Tim Howard when through on goal.
Four minutes after Brad Evans’s bouncing header was gathered by Honduras keeper Noel Valladares in the 55th minute, Altidore had the ball in the net, only to be ruled offside.
Dempsey’s 70th-minute header was parried by Valladares into the path of Michael Bradley, whose drive went just over the crossbar.
Altidore got the breakthrough three minutes later. Graham Zusi’s flick put Fabian Johnson in behind the Honduras defense and his cut-back was turned in by Altidore, the sixth player to score in four straight games for the U.S.
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