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Bobby Wood's late goal gives U.S. tie with Honduras, keeps World Cup hopes alive

Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Soccer

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras -- Bobby Wood has played 34 games for the U.S. national soccer team, nearly half of them as a substitute. So he knew what was expected of him when came off the bench Tuesday.

"Coming on as a sub, you always want to change the game in some way," he said. "That's my job."

But on this steamy afternoon at the raucous Estadio Olimpico Metropolitan, he not only changed a game, he dramatically altered the World Cup qualifying campaigns of two countries with an 85th-minute goal that gave the U.S. a 1-1 draw with Honduras.

With the tie, the U.S. (2-3-3) remained ahead of Honduras (also 2-3-3) by the slimmest of margins -- goal differential -- and remained in control of its destiny in the battle for CONCACAF's third and final ticket to next summer's World Cup in Russia.

Hours after beating Honduras, the U.S. surrendered that spot to Panama, which beat last-place Trinidad and Tobago 3-0 in Tuesday's late qualifier. That was of little concern to the Americans, though, since they face Panama in their next qualifier in October. And if they win that game and finish the 10-game tournament by beating Trinidad and Tobago, they go to Russia no matter what the others do.

Had the U.S. lost Tuesday, it would have dropped to fifth in the six-team standings. That would have left the Americans needing wins in their last two games as well as losses by both Honduras and Panama to advance to an eighth straight World Cup.

"That's a huge point," coach Bruce Arena said of the tie. "In the two games in qualifying remaining, we have everything to play for.

"We're going to get out of here and not look back."

Arena admitted for most of Tuesday afternoon he was considering another scenario.

"I was thinking we might have an early vacation at the end of this year," he said.

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