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A Turnaround for Honduras

Second-half goals produce 2-1 victory over Guatemala in first international game at Home Depot Center.

June 23, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Honduras, coming off losses to Chile and Venezuela and seemingly headed for a third consecutive defeat, turned up its game a couple of notches Sunday and showed glimpses of the form that almost helped it qualify for the 2002 World Cup.

Spurred on by its increasingly vocal fans among the 15,023 in the Home Depot Center at Carson, Coach Edwin Pavon's team rallied to defeat Guatemala, 2-1, in the first international match played at the Galaxy's new stadium.

Both teams were using the match as preparation for next month's CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States and Mexico.

Pavon, although pleased with the way his team is developing, said it still has a long way to go to equal the 2002 squad.

"I don't want to fool myself," he said. "I think that team was stronger than this one, but we're still missing some key players -- forward Samuel Caballero, midfielder Amado Guevara and goalkeeper Noel Valladares, among others."

Guevara, who plays for Major League Soccer's New York/New Jersey MetroStars, is embroiled in a financial dispute with the Honduran soccer federation, and it is uncertain whether the matter will be resolved before the July 12-27 Gold Cup. Pavon hopes it is.

"We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of being without a player of the caliber of Guevara," he said.

Still, it was a relief, he added, to get back on the winning track.

"I think my team has improved, but I've got to be honest. Without putting down Guatemala, Chile and Venezuela were better opposition, they had more individual skilled players than Guatemala."

Two goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half powered Honduras to the come-from-behind victory in a fast-paced and entertaining game in which the teams created numerous scoring chances.

Guatemala appeared to have the game in hand in the first 45 minutes, getting a goal from Mario Acevedo in the 16th minute and thwarting the Honduran counterattacks.

Guatemala's defense, in which Mynor Gonzalez was especially effective, held Honduras scoreless for the first half, but the Hondurans broke through five minutes into the second half.

After Guatemala's Guillermo Ramirez lost the ball in his half of the field, Emil Martinez took it down the left flank before crossing into the goal area, where Jairo Martinez hit a powerful header from six yards that deflected into the top of the net off the hands of goalkeeper Edgar Estrada.

Just under five minutes later, Honduras scored the winning goal.

Julio Cesar de Leon played a corner kick out wide to Edgar Alvarez, whose shot deflected off a crowd of players and into the net, leaving Estrada stranded.

Guatemala Coach Victor Manuel Aguado brought Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz into the match in the second half, along with former Galaxy midfielder Martin Machon.

Ruiz managed a header and a free kick on goal, both easily handled by Hector Medina, who saved the victory for Honduras when he flung himself to his left to push Ruiz's 86th-minute effort around the post.

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