FRISCO, United States: Clint Dempsey scored twice as the United States men’s national team began their CONCACAF Gold Cup title defense on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) by holding on to beat Honduras 2-1 at Toyota Stadium.
Dempsey scored on either side of halftime for the favored Americans who came into the tournament riding a four-match friendly win streak and now move to the top of Group A standings with three points.
“It wasn’t our best game, but we are happy to get three points from our first game,” said Dempsey, of the US which has reached the final of the past five Gold Cups, winning three.
The Americans and Hondurans are joined in Group A by Haiti and Panama, who played to a 1-1 draw in the first game of the 12-team, 19-day tournament’s opening day doubleheader.
The USA, who have 16 players on the Gold Cup team that played in last year’s World Cup, opened the scoring Tuesday off a scramble in front of the goal.
Dempsey was in the right place at the right time when Honduran goalkeeper Donis Escober kicked a Jozy Altidore rebound right to him in the center of the box and he made no mistake nodding it home in front of the crowd of 22,300.
Dempsey made it 2-0 on another header, but this time off a free kick.
His leap from in front wasn’t perfect but it was high enough to get his head on a piece of the ball and deflect it past a flatfooted Escober in the 63rd minute.
Substitute Carlos Discua cut the US lead to one goal just five minutes later with a clever move to split the US defense and hammer a shot over the left shoulder of goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
The USA nearly had a third goal in the 78th minute as Escober made a difficult save off a Micheal Bradley free kick.
Honduras controlled the play for much of the rest of the match but they couldn’t capitalize on their chances. They failed to score on Bryan Acosta’s corner in the 89th minute.
DeAndre Yedlin elbowed a Honduran attacker in the back resulting in a free kick in extra time but they squandered that opportunity as well.
“We took advantage of the opportunities that we got,” Dempsey said.
‘Difficult on ourselves’
“We weren’t at our best towards the end of the first half. Then we got the second goal. We should have saw the game out but we made it difficult on ourselves.”
American goalkeeper Guzan was tested early by Honduras. He made a close-range save on Anthony Lozano’s attempt in the third minute and put a long shot from Acosta over the crossbar a few minutes later.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s US side will next face Haiti in group play on Friday in Boston.
On Wednesday, Costa Rica plays Jamaica and El Salvador faces Canada at StubHub Center stadium in south central Los Angeles.
Mexico begins play Thursday in Chicago against Cuba. Trinidad and Tobago takes on Guatemala also in Chicago.