The US entered this World Cup Qualifier against Honduras on top of the Hex. A win would clinch a World Cup berth, but an injured Clint Dempsey required tactical shuffling in the attack. In the build-up to the match, Bob Bradley mentioned the need to evaluate not just individual strikers, but striker pairings, indicating he’d stick with a 4-4-2. Even with this comment, few, if any, predicted a starting lineup featuring Charlie Davies and Conor Casey. The two strikers had just 10 caps between them, but the move proved to be a masterstroke from Bradley.
Throughout the 2009 Hex, the the US conceded first in six of the 10 games, a frustrating habit that followed them to the World Cup. This was one of those games, as the US allowed a free-kick goal just minutes in to the second half. Casey scored a scrappy equalizer in the 55th minute, winning the result from a Davies header by somehow colliding with the the keeper facing away from goal. Davies and Casey then contributed to a more sophisticated second goal.
In the 66th minute, Oguchi Onyewu feeds Davies at midfield on the left touchline. Davies turns, accelerates in to space, and finds Landon Donovan centrally. Donovan delays his first touch, drawing in a defender, and splits two more defenders with a pinpoint through-ball to Casey. Casey’s first touch takes him to the top of the 18, and the keeper races out to meet him. With the slightest swivel of his hips and stutter-step, Casey makes the keeper commit, and then guides the ball to the open far right corner.
The comeback wasn’t complete. Casey would win a foul that led to Donovan’s crafty free kick goal to make it 3-1. Honduras grabbed a second in the 78th minute, and with 5 minutes left, were a missed PK away from tying the game. The US held on, though, and booked the trip to South Africa with a qualified to spare.