An 89th-minute goal by Jordan Siebatcheu in his first U.S. national team game on home soil gave the Americans a 1-0 win over Honduras in a slugfest of a semifinal in the Concacaf Nations League.
Having come in as a substitute just over 10 minutes earlier, Siebatcheu powered in a header off a cross from Weston McKennie to spare the U.S. from a scoreless tie that would have produced a penalty kick shootout, in the program’s first major game since the 2019 Gold Cup final.
It was the first national team goal for Siebatcheu, who was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up in France and has spent his whole pro career in Europe. The 6-foot-3 target man currently plays for Young Boys in Switzerland, and helped the team on a UEFA Europa League campaign this past season.
“That’s why we put Jordan on,” U.S. coach Berhalter said. ”We know he’s a force on crosses, he battles in the penalty box, good physicality, and he gave us the edge that we needed.”
The U.S. will play Mexico in Sunday night’s final at Denver’s Empower Field at Mile High (9 p.m., CBS Sports Network, Univision, TUDN, Paramount+). El Tri needed a penalty kick shootout to beat Costa Rica after being held to a scoreless tie in regulation.
A crowd of 34,451 fans was on hand for Thursday’s semifinal doubleheader at the Broncos’ home. The Americans among them sweated though a hot, nervy night, but got to celebrate in the end.
“We’d like to have scored more goals and won more comfortably, but that’s not reality,” Berhalter said. “It’s a great learning experience.”
U.S. supporters probably won’t like hearing that, given the star power of this squad. But Berhalter also was blunt in noting how his lineup was the second-youngest ever for a U.S. men’s team in a game with official stakes. Many of the players had never played a Concacaf game with stakes before.
“We needed it,” said Zack Steffen, the U.S.’ Downingtown-bred goalkeeper who wore the captain’s armband in the game. “These are the games that count, these are the games that matter — there’s pressure and there’s things on the line. We need more games like this.”
There were times in the first half where the Americans looked sharp. Gio Reyna electrified the game’s early stages with a highlight-reel solo run past four defenders in the 10th minute, resulting in a shot that rolled just wide.
There were also moments when the U.S. defense was woefully exposed, and Honduras could easily have scored multiple goals.
The second half was ugly, with the U.S. holding the vast majority of possession but doing little with it.
The game was still scoreless in the 78th minute when U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter finally made his first substitutions of the night, three at once: Medford’s Brenden Aaronson for Reyna on the wing, Reggie Cannon for Antonee Robinson at outside back, and Siebatcheu for Josh Sargent at striker.
Honduras had already made all five of its available substitutions by then, and was savvy enough to try to drag the game to penalties.
“What we were looking for was, what needs to be changed, who’s not performing up to expectations, and we felt that it [a goal] was going to come, so we didn’t want to change much,” Berhalter said. “Gio, when he got taken out, was still performing reasonably well. What we wanted was a little bit more energy, a little bit more speed, and a little bit more physicality on top.”
Sargent’s lack of finishing led CBS analyst Charlie Davies, a former U.S. national team striker, to call for Siebatcheu to start in the final.
But a U.S. defense led by Steffen’s three saves and former Union defender Mark McKenzie at centerback held firm and kept the Catrachos from finding the net.
McKenzie made a good impression in his second consecutive start next to veteran John Brooks on the back line. It was a big call by Berhalter, with veterans Tim Ream and Matt Miazga also available, but it paid off.
“I thought Mark was strong,” Berhalter said. “He dealt with a lot, he was able to win a lot of duels, and I think he did a great job.”