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USA's World Cup qualification off to a rocky start after disappointment in Honduras

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports

It was one of the funnier goal celebrations that you will see in this World Cup qualifying campaign, but for the United States its defeat in Honduras on Wednesday was no laughing matter.

The hosts secured a 2-1 triumph in San Pedro Sula thanks to a second-half winner from Jerry Bengston, which prompted virtually the entire Honduras team to sink to their hands and knees and make a train towards the corner flag.

For Jurgen Klinsmann's Americans, it was the worst possible way to begin the final phase of qualifying in the CONCACAF region and piles on pressure ahead of its next two matches against traditional rivals Costa Rica and Mexico.

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U.S. players react after a 2-1 loss to Honduras. (AP)

Honduras was never going to be an easy place to visit, with a passionate and vocal home crowd filling the Stadio Olimpico, and the contest being deliberately staged during the hottest part of the day.

Yet the way Klinsmann's defensive line failed to cope with the Honduran attack will create serious concerns moving forward and indicated that the USA's route to Brazil next summer may not be as straightforward as many predicted.

Klinsmann, the coach who took his native Germany to the World Cup semifinals in 2006, was brought in during 2011 as it was felt he could take the team deeper on the biggest stage than his predecessor Bob Bradley. But right now, such thoughts are replaced by concerns over whether the USA can assert its authority on the region and avoid a nervous dogfight for qualification.

Things had started well, with Clint Dempsey having put the U.S. side ahead after 36 minutes via a well-taken volley from Jermaine Jones' delicate chip over the defense.

However, defensive errors rarely go unpunished at international level as Honduras, still buoyed by an excellent Olympic Games campaign that saw it reach the quarterfinals in London over the summer, never lost belief.

[Related: Watch Honduras' overhead equalizer against the U.S.]

USA newcomer Timmy Chandler, who plays his club soccer in the German Bundesliga – one of the finest competitions in the world – found the pace of the game tough as early as the end of the first half and did little to suggest he is the long-term answer at the right-back position.

Likewise, Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez seemed shaky at times in the center of defense, lacking the no-nonsense tenacity of Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit, the previous incumbents at this stage of the World Cup process four years ago.

The equalizer came after 39 minutes, one that will be remembered for Juan Carlos Garcia's spectacular and acrobatic bicycle kick but was born from a series of American mishaps.

The failure of Michael Bradley and Chandler to clear a ball in the danger zone led to a Honduras corner where more defensive confusion meant Garcia was given the chance to create a small piece of magic.

Still, a tie and a point would have been a decent road outcome against Honduras, currently ranked 59th in the world but improving quickly. If only.

In the 78th minute, Oscar Boniek Garcia was given space to surge down the right, and his run drew goalkeeper Tim Howard away from his line. Garcia then calmly tapped the ball into the path of the fast-advancing Bengston, who was never going to miss a wide-open target.

Klinsmann's face was one of disbelief and the reality was beginning to sink in that while playing in one of the weakest regions in world soccer, qualification from CONCACAF is by no means a simple task.

"There were individual mistakes that happened," Klinsmann told reporters. "We had problems closing down the passing lanes.

"There were too many players who just didn't reach their normal potential. They were behind their own games, and it is very difficult to get a win here if you don't have everybody at 100 percent.”

Next up for the USA is a home clash against Costa Rica on March 22, before a visit to Mexico City four days later.

Improvement, as Klinsmann well knows, is much needed.

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