Jerry Bengston took advantage of a defensive mix-up to score the go-ahead goal in the 79th minute, and Honduras rallied to beat the United States 2-1 Wednesday in the opener of the final qualifying round for next year's World Cup.
Clint Dempsey put the U.S. ahead in the 36th minute but the Americans, using a new-look defense that featured Omar Gonzalez and Timmy Chandler, gave up the lead when Juan Carlos Garcia tied the score with a bicycle kick in the 40th at San Pedro Sula.
Bengston, who plays for Major League Soccer's New England Revolution, scored the winner when defender Geoff Cameron and goalkeeper Tim Howard both went for a pass by Maynor Figueroa to Oscar Boniek Garcia. That allowed Garcia to tap the ball across to Bengston for a shot into an open net, and Gonzalez was too late to challenge him.
"Overall, there were too many mistakes done and too many players today just didn't reach their usual potential," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "They stayed behind their own game and therefore, it's really difficult coming away with a win here if you're not having everybody 100 percent at their limits."
Playing without Landon Donovan, a veteran of three World Cups who is unsure whether to continue his career, the 28th-ranked U.S. was under pressure for much of the match. No. 59 Honduras had the better chances, forcing Howard into several difficult saves
The U.S., which had been 12-3-3 against Honduras, lost its final-round opener for the first time in five games since the "hexagonal" format was adopted in qualifying for the 1998 tournament. The Americans are seeking their seventh straight tip to soccer's showcase.
The general rule in qualifying is to win home games and pick up points on the road. The top three nations in the six-team group represent North and Central America and the Caribbean at next year's tournament in Brazil, and the No. 4 country advances to a playoff for another berth, likely against New Zealand.