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Honduras Defeats US in World Cup Qualifier - 2001-09-02

Honduras has defeated the United States National Soccer team 3-2 in a World Cup qualifying match before a deafening, sold out crowd at RFK Stadium here in Washington. Despite a controversy over the allocation of tickets before the game, the Hondurans were well-represented in the stands.

According to game-time estimates, as many as 40-percent of the fans at RFK were cheering for the Honduran team. But the blue-garbed portion of the crowd was silenced in the seventh minute, as Earnie Stewart blasted the rebound of a long crossing pass past Honduran keeper Noel Valladares, to give the Team USA a 1-0 lead.

But the US advantage was short-lived, as Milton Nunez equalized in the 28th minute on a two-on-one opportunity. Carlos Pavon broke through the American defense before sending a perfect pass to Nunez, who booted it past a diving Brad Friedel and into the net.

Team USA had a chance to retake the lead on a penalty kick in the 43rd minute, but Valladares made a fine save on Earnie Stewart's low drive. Stewart was angry with himself for missing the penalty kick.

"I missed it," he said later. "If I would have hit it the way I wanted it would gone in. But I made a choice at the last moment to hit it to the other corner and [that was] stupid."

That gave Honduras the momentum, and for the rest of the game the visitors played with a sharper edge. Perhaps it was their desperation to pick up three points with a victory, but their players were faster, their passes crisper and their play rougher, with four yellow cards being handed out to Honduras players.

It paid off in the 52nd minute as Pavon netted a penalty kick to give Honduras a 2-1 lead. Then, with the U.S. pressing for the equalizer, Nunez scored again in the 76th. Earnie Stewart tallied his second goal in the 83rd minute to make it close, but Honduras won the game 3-2. Despite the loss, U.S. Coach Bruce Arena did not think his team played that badly.

"If you score that penalty kick the game looks completely different," explained Coach Arena. "So you do not want to zero in on one. ... But a one-goal lead is pretty big for a home team with 45 minutes to go."

The U.S. team now has 13 points in group-qualifying play from four wins, two losses and one draw. Honduras improves to three wins, two losses and two draws for 11 points. The top three teams in the six-nation group advance to the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.