FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Clint Dempsey didn’t view a wild sellout crowd as a pro-Texas bunch celebrating two goals by what amounts to a hometown kid.
The East Texas native thinks American soccer supporters are a lot more fervent than that now.
Dempsey scored twice on headers not far from where he trained as a youth, and the United States opened defense of its CONCACAF Gold Cup title with a 2-1 victory over Honduras on Tuesday night.
“I think the crowd was behind the whole team,” said the 32-year-old, who is up to 43 international goals, 14 behind Landon Donovan’s American record. “I remember when I first started with the national team and they’d be more fans for the other team sometimes. So to be able nowadays to play in front of pro-American crowds, I think the team definitely feeds off that energy.”
Dempsey’s goals in the 25th and 64th minutes were created from crosses from Michael Bradley, wearing the captain’s arm band in his 100th international appearance. The goals oosted the Americans to 13-0 in Gold Cup openers.
Carlos Discua scored his first international goal in the 69th minute for Honduras, a semifinalist in the last three Gold Cups, and the Catrachos came close to tying the score.
“It wasn’t our best performance, but we’re happy to get three points from our first game,” Dempsey said.
It was the first competitive match for the U.S. since losing to Belgium in overtime in the second round of last year’s World Cup. The Americans, 29-1-2 in Gold Cup group play, meet Haiti on Friday and Panama on Monday. Haiti tied Panama 1-1 in the doubleheader opener.
U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan had a couple of tough saves in the first few minutes on a muggy night before 22,357 at the home of Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas.
“They came out and put us under a bit of pressure and we had to find a way to weather that storm, which we did,” Guzan said. “I don’t think we were at our best. I think we turned the ball over quite easily too many times and maybe put ourselves under some undo pressure.”
The first U.S. goal developed when DeAndre Yedlin played a short corner kick to Bradley, who crossed on a bounce to the far post. Henry Figueroa’s clearance attempt back to Bradley’s side was picked up at the side of the 6-yard box by Jozy Altidore, who took a touch and shot. Goalkeeper Donis Escobar kicked the ball out with his right foot and it popped up to Dempsey, who nodded it in from 6 yards.
Bradley’s free kick from the flank led to the second goal. Escobar stayed on his line and an unmarked Dempsey jumped 4 yards out and headed inside the far post.
After a sluggish start, the U.S. controlled the pace in the second half until Discua took a nifty pass from Wilmer Crisanto and touched the ball past a standing Ventura Alvarado before beating Guzan over the keeper’s left shoulder. Alvarado, who also had been eligible to play for Mexico, played his first competitive match for the U.S. and became tied to the American national team.
Honduras had a couple of good opportunities in the final 20 minutes, including when Guzan knocked a ball toward Eddie Hernandez, who had an open net but couldn’t control the ball before it went out.
“I feel like we played a good match,” said Honduras coach Jorge Luis Pinto, who led Costa Rica to the quarterfinals at the World Cup in Brazil. “But in football, sometimes the small details are what determine the matches. That’s what happened to us.”
Bradley, a son of former U.S. coach Bob Bradley, became the 16th American male to make 100 international appearances. At 27 years, 341 days, he is the fourth-youngest American after Donovan (26-96), Cobi Jones (27-239) and Marcelo Balboa (27-320).
“Great atmosphere and a very special moment for Michael Bradley,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said.
Bradley replaced Dempsey, who lost the captaincy going into the Gold Cup after getting suspended by MLS and the U.S. Soccer Federation for a confrontation with a referee in a U.S. Open Cup match for Seattle. Those questions persist for Klinsmann, who considers them more irrelevant each day.
“As a striker, what do you want to do the most is scoring,” said Klinsmann, tied for fourth on Germany’s career scoring list. “That’s what feeds a striker, feeling-wise, is goals.”
If the U.S. wins the Gold Cup, it would qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. If another nation wins, it would meet the Americans in a playoff for the Confederations Cup berth.
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