Teenage forward sensation Ricardo Pepi scored the game-winning goal on his debut as the U.S. men’s national team got its first World Cup qualifying win 4-1 on the road in Honduras. The victory injects renewed hope in the USA’s bid to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after two straight draws to open qualifying.
The 18-year-old Pepi, who plays for FC Dallas in MLS, was given his first start for the senior U.S. side in a tough World Cup qualifying environment in San Pedro Sula, and he came through in the second half by playing a part in all four U.S. goals as the Americans overturned a 1-0 halftime deficit. Pepi challenged for the ball that spilled out to Antonee Robinson for the 1-1 equalizer, he headed home the go-ahead goal, he served up Brenden Aaronson for the 3-1 lead, and his shot forced a save which spilled to Sebastian Lletget for the final strike.
The USMNT now has five points from a possible nine in its opening three matches and the qualifying scene completely changes after a grim outlook that followed the draws against El Salvador (0-0) and Canada (1-1). The Americans find themselves in third place in the standings and it’s the top three finishers in March 2022 that will earn a direct berth to the World Cup in Qatar.
MORE: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying results & standings
The USA had to face the match against Honduras without many of its biggest stars: Gio Reyna (hamstring), Sergino Dest (ankle), Weston McKennie (team violation), Zack Steffen (COVID-19) and a host of other players who were not called up due to injury. Captain and star Christian Pulisic was forced to leave the match due to injury with the score at 1-1.
U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter fielded a 3-4-3 formation to start the match with Tyler Adams playing at right wingback. But after a promising start, the team began to look disjointed and disconnected, especially after the Honduras opening goal in the 27th minute. Berhalter changed things up at halftime with three subs and a formation switch to a more customary 4-3-3 with Adams eventually moving back to his preferred central midfield role. The tactical and personnel changes made an impact and brought the best out of Pepi, who did not look like a player making his first-team debut.
The Americans have 11 more qualifying matches to go and the next three are on tap in October (vs. Jamaica, at Panama and vs. Costa Rica). There are a total of eight teams involved in CONCACAF regional qualifying, and each plays a total of 14 matches. The top three teams in the CONCACAF octagonal advance to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The fourth-place team will play in an intercontinental playoff with a ticket to Qatar on the line.
🇺🇸 3rd win in an away World Cup qualifier after conceding first
🇺🇸 2nd World Cup qualifying win after trailing at halftime
🇺🇸 1st time scoring four second-half goals in a final-round qualifier
Had it the whole way!
— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr) September 9, 2021
Honduras vs. USMNT final score
HON – Brayan Moya (Diego Rodriguez) – 27th min.
USA – Antonee Robinson (Ricardo Pepi) – 48th min.
USA – Ricardo Pepi (DeAndre Yedlin) – 75th min.
USA – Brenden Aaronson (Ricardo Pepi) – 86th min.
USA – Sebastian Lletget – 95th min.
(All times Eastern)
MORE: Why there’s no VAR in CONCACAF qualifying
Final: Honduras 1, USA 4
Final: That’s it! The Americans turned things around after a dismal first half with a formation change, a personnel change and a breakout performance by teenage sensation Ricardo Pepi on his debut. The substitutions and tactics worked out perfectly for the Americans in one of the toughest road matches of qualifying.
95th min.: The USA isn’t done. There’s a fourth goal! A Pepi shot is saved and the ball falls to Sebastian Lletget who pokes it home into an empty net. What a turnaround for the USA.
86th min.: Brenden Aaronson scores! USA up 3-1! Cristian Roldan wins a ball, feeds Pepi, who dishes to Aaronson for the goal.
82nd min.: Honduras brings on its final sub and its forward Eddie Hernandez coming on for the last ditch effort to equalize.
75th min.: Goal USA! Ricardo Pepi! It’s a header goal on his debut. The cross from DeAndre Yedlin finds Pepi in the box and he nods it in. Well-taken goal.
73rd min.: SUBS – Honduras bring on midfielder Bryan Acosta for Deybi Flores and the USA’s DeAndre Yedlin is on for James Sands. Yedlin will go to right back and Acosta, Adams and Lletget will form the new midfield trio.
71st min.: Tyler Adams with a great shot that Honduras GK Lopez has to tip wide for a corner kick. We’ll see if Adams maintains that midfield role. It looks like Kellyn Acosta has gone to right back.
64th min.: Great save by USA’s Matt Turner on a header in the box from Maynor Figueroa. Big stop.
61st min.: SUB – Pulisic crumbles to the ground after making a pass and he’s forced to come off with Cristian Roldan coming in for him. Roldan goes right and Aaronson goes left where Pulisic was.
60th min.: Quioto takes a free kick for Honduras that finishes off target. Meanwhile, Pulisic is struggling after going down on a tough challenge.
56th min.: Reminder of the USMNT formation (4-3-3, left to right): Robinson, McKenzie, Robinson, Adams — Lletget, Acosta, Sands — Pulisic, Pepi, Aaronson
54th min.: Sebastian Lletget making an impact. He feeds Christian Pulisic whose shot is parried away by the ‘keeper for a corner that amounts to nothing. Much better from the USA.
50th min.: Romell Quioto, who came on at halftime, responds with a shot against the side netting.
48th min.: USA goal! A cross by Sebastian Lletget bounces out to Antonee Robinson, who followed the play and finished expertly on the volley. It’s 1-1.
46th min.: Second half is underway and both sides make three changes. Antonee Robinson on for George Bello, Sebastian Lletget in for John Brooks. Brenden Aaronson for Josh Sargent. The USA is going back to a 4-3-3.
Halftime: Honduras 1, USA 0
Halftime: After what looked like a promising start, the USA lost any handle it had on the game and it was played on Honduras’s terms. The Catrachos had clear ideas and movements in transition and they caught the U.S. defense in shambles on their goal. The lead gave Honduras more confidence and the home side simply looks more comfortable. The U.S. was increasingly disjointed as the minutes went by with big gaps between the various sectors of the field. Head coach Gregg Berhalter has work to do at halftime. The system change and personnel just doesn’t look right.
47th+ min.: George Bello goes down in the Honduras box and it looks like he was bumped from behind but the referee won’t get a second look at it (no VAR in CONCACAF qualifying).
45th min.: Three minutes of stoppage time. The U.S. could really use the halftime break to regroup. It’s looking really disjointed since the Honduras goal.
40th min.: A long injury delay for Honduras midfielder Kervin Arriaga to come off the field on a stretcher after a midfield collision with Kellyn Acosta. Play finally resumes and Arriaga is eventually back on. Honduras is going to milk those challenges and not let the USA get into any rhythm.
33rd min.: Honduras showing some confidence. A shot by Jonathan Rubio goes wide of Matt Turner’s goal.
27th min.: Honduras goal! Cross by Diego Rodriguez and Brayan Moya is all alone in the box and heads home off the bounce past Matt Turner. Where was John Brooks? He stepped up to challenge and George Bello didn’t cover for him. Not a good defensive moment for the USA.
24th min.: Another U.S. chance! George Bello crosses into the Honduras box and Josh Sargent heads down to Ricardo Pepi, who turns on the ball but doesn’t get good contact on it and it finishes high.
19th min.: Chance for the USA! Kellyn Acosta picks out a cross in the box, but Christian Pulisic can’t quite connect well enough on the header. Good idea from Acosta. The USA looks like it’s not having many issues creating attacks.
16th min.: After stopping another U.S. attack, Honduras transitions quickly: Kervin Arriaga feeds Brayan Moya in the U.S. box and Moya’s shot hits the side netting.
11th min.: Tyler Adams with a long vertical ball forward to Christian Pulisic and the Honduras ‘keeper comes out and clatters into his own player to clear.
9th min.: A Honduras cross goes across the front of the U.S. goal, but there were no players to take advantage. First real danger averted by the Americans.
4th min.: Behind-the-back pass by Gregg Berhalter:
3rd min.: Another U.S. chance! Josh Sargent was breaking into the left side of the Honduras penalty area and he had Tyler Adams all alone on the other side of the box, but he couldn’t get the ball to him. Honduras escapes.
1st min.: USMNT on the front foot after 18 seconds! George Bello fires a blast that misses the mark. USA’s intentions are clear.
10:19 p.m.: As we wait for the game to start, this is a video that USMNT fans will want to watch in light of the Weston McKennie suspension and dismissal:
10:13 p.m.: A familiar sound is also being brought back in San Pedro Sula:
Having South Africa flashbacks with all the vuvuzelas in this stadium.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) September 9, 2021
9:35 p.m.: FC Dallas 18-year-old Ricardo Pepi will have people talking tonight as he makes his debut:
18-year-old Ricardo Pepi gets his first start and his USMNT senior debut.
Christian Pulisic is the only player younger than him to appear in a World Cup qualifier for the USMNT ✨ pic.twitter.com/Y8PaKf9hyS
— B/R Football (@brfootball) September 9, 2021
USA vs. Honduras: Starting lineups
The USMNT has a list of players who will miss the match, including a handful of stars such as Gio Reyna (hamstring), Sergino Dest (ankle) and Weston McKennie (team violation). It means that Christian Pulisic will have an even bigger bullseye on his back than usual.
MORE: Why Weston McKennie is not playing for the USMNT
Berhalter goes with a 3-4-3 formation with James Sands in midfield with Kellyn Acosta . George Bello (left) and Tyler Adams (right) will serve as the two wingbacks and 18-year-old Ricardo Pepi makes his first start for the USMNT at center forward.
USMNT starting lineup (3-4-3, left to right): 1-Matt Turner-GK — 15-Mark McKenzie 6-John Brooks, 12-Miles Robinson — 21-George Bello, 23-Kellyn Acosta, 16-James Sands, 4-Tyler Adams — 9-Josh Sargent, 14-Ricardo Pepi, 10-Christian Pulisic
USMNT subs (12): 18-Ethan Horvath-GK, 8-Sean Johnson-GK, 5-Antonee Robinson, 3-Walker Zimmerman, 13-Tim Ream, 22-DeAndre Yedlin, 17-Sebastian Lletget, 2-Jackson Yueill, 7-Cristian Roldan, 20-Konrad de la Fuente, 11-Brenden Aaronson, 19-Jordan Pefok
Honduras head coach Fabian Coito made nine changes to his starting lineup from the first match against Canada to the second against El Salvador, presumably looking to rest players for the home game against the U.S. One major absence is playmaker Alex Lopez , who scored the Catrachos’ only goal so far on a penalty kick against Canada. He injured himself on that penalty and has already rejoined his club team to begin his recovery.
Honduras starting lineup (4-4-2, left to right): 22-Luis Lopez — 23-Diego Rodriguez, 3-Maynor Figueroa, 4-Marcelo Pereira, 17-Andy Najar — 21-Jonathan Rubio Toro, 20-Deybi Flores, 15-Kervin Arriaga, 7-Carlos Pineda — 13-Brayan Moya, 9-Antony “Choco” Lozano
Honduras subs (12): 1-Edrick Menjivar-GK, 18-Marlon Licona-GK, 2-Felix Crisanto, 5-Danilo Acosta, 16-Johnny Leveron, 19-Jose Garcia, 6-Bryan Acosta, 8-Edwin Rodriguez 14-Boniek Garcia, 10-Rigoberto Rivas, 11-Eddie Hernandez, 12-Romell Quioto
How to watch Honduras vs. USA
- Date: Wednesday, Sept. 8
- Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
- Spanish-language TV: Telemundo, Universo
- Stream: fuboTV , Paramount+
The match will be broadcast on Telemundo and Universo, and both of those channels can be streamed on fuboTV (free 7-day trial) . Paramount+ also will carry the match.
The event will be held at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula, which will be sold out at 50 percent capacity (18,000 fans).