The United States men’s soccer team have put themselves in with a good chance of making it through the qualification tournament for the 2022 World Cup Finals in Qatar in December of that year.
The team continued its good form from the Gold Cup in the summer over the last couple of weeks, going unbeaten in their three games over that period and putting themselves into third place in the group, just two points behind the leaders Mexico and level with second-placed Canada on goal difference.
Having missed out on the 2018 World Cup Finals in France, head coach Gregg Berhalter knows that reaching the tournament in Qatar is going to be the key measure of his tenure as head coach and it looks like he may well have found a few new stars to help him achieve that goal.
The USMNT started their campaign with a tricky away game against El Salvador and despite almost having double the amount of shots as their hosts, the game fizzled out into a 0-0 draw.
However, with three of the games played in the opening round of fixtures, that draw would not prove to be too bad a result if they could improve in their next game against Canada at home in the Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.
After a goalless first half, which was a little disappointing in terms of quality, Brenden Aaronson gave the USMNT the lead in the 55th minute, but they could only hold onto that advantage for seven minutes before Cyle Larin pulled the game level on 62.
Despite having 72% possession and almost double the shots on goal as the Canadian team, once again the United States failed to convert that possession into goals.
Second Half Switches Do The Trick
There was no doubt therefore that despite being unbeaten, the pressure was on Berhalter’s team to get a positive result against Honduras in their third game.
However, Honduras, who qualified for the 2018 World Cup Finals at the expense of the United States, were on the front foot in the first half and took a deserved lead on 27 minutes when Brayan Moya struck.
Berhalter made a number of changes at the interval and they soon started to take effect in what was the best 45 minutes by the USMNT in a very long time.
First Antonee Robinson levelled the game on 48 minutes, before a towering header from Ricardo Pepi from DeAndre Yedlin’s cross put the US team in front in 75 minutes.
Further goals from substitutes Brenden Aaronson on 86 minutes and Sebastian Lletget in added time at the end of the game, saw the United States run out comfortable 4-1 winners in the end, moving them into one of the automatic qualification spots in the table.
Crucial Games In October
October could well be a pivotal month for the USMNT chances of making it Qatar. They open up the month with a home game against bottom club in the table Jamaica, which is then followed by a tricky trip to Panama in their second game, before their final game against Costa Rica.
Berhalter will be hoping his team can collect at least seven points, if not nine, from those games in order to try and secure a direct path into the World Cup Finals and avoid the playoff, or worse still, missing out altogether.
However, that second half performance against Honduras has given USMNT fans something to cheer and some belief that they will be participating in Qatar 2022, ahead of being one of the hosts of the tournament four years later.