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SOCCER / WORLD CUP QUALIFYING

Late U.S. goal helps Honduras

The U.S. finishes first in regional qualifying with tie against Costa Rica, but defender Oguchi Onyewu injures his knee.

October 15, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

There are two names on the lips of every Honduran soccer fan today -- Carlos Pavon and Jonathan Bornstein.

Pavon, briefly a Galaxy forward, scored the vital goal Wednesday night that earned Honduras a 1-0 victory over El Salvador in San Salvador.

Bornstein, the Chivas USA defender, scored an even more telling goal, heading home the ball with only seconds to play to give the U.S. a 2-2 tie with Costa Rica at RFK Stadium in Washington.

The combined results meant that Honduras qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa while Costa Rica was consigned to a playoff against Uruguay, which lost at home, 1-0, to Argentina.

Small wonder that Pavon and Bornstein are likely to be feted all the way from San Pedro Sula to Tegucigalpa and beyond. It has been 27 years since Honduras made its first and only appearance in a World Cup, in Spain in 1982.

Costa Rica can only lament what happened. It took a 2-0 lead on exceptional goals by Bryan Ruiz less than four minutes apart in the first half and then tried to hold on for more than an hour.

But Michael Bradley cut the U.S. deficit in half in the 71st minute, and after Costa Rica Coach Rene Simoes had been ejected by Mexican referee Benito Armando Archundia for arguing and time-wasting in the dying moments, the writing was on the wall.

Robbie Rogers started the decisive goal sequence, sending a corner kick in from the right in the fifth and final minute of injury time. Bornstein galloped through the penalty area and stooped to head the ball into the lower right corner of the net.

It was only the defender's second goal for the U.S. in 24 appearances.

"I don't normally go up for corner kicks," Bornstein told reporters. "Usually, I stay back. But for that one, I was like, 'I'm getting in there. This is a last-shot effort.' He put in a good ball and I found myself wide open."

Seconds later, it was all over and the American players, like the U.S. fans before them, paid tribute to forward Charlie Davies, who was injured in a Tuesday morning car crash that will almost certainly cause him to miss the World Cup.

On another bleak note for the U.S., defender Oguchi Onyewu tore a tendon in his left knee Wednesday and will be sidelined three to four months.

"We've had two days of tough news," said U.S. Coach Bob Bradley.

The tie maintained the U.S. record of being unbeaten at home throughout qualifying for South Africa 2010 and saw the American team finish in first place, ahead of Mexico, which was held to a 2-2 tie at Trinidad and Tobago in its qualifying finale.

So the U.S., Mexico and Honduras will represent soccer's North and Central American and Caribbean region at the World Cup, while Costa Rica can join them only if it gets past Uruguay in their Nov. 14 and 18 playoff series.

"Give us a day to recover from this before we start thinking about Uruguay," Simoes said.

Also heading for South Africa is Argentina, which used an 84th-minute goal by Mario Bolatti in Montevideo to guarantee Lionel Messi a trip to the World Cup.

Argentina Coach Diego Maradona, in a post-match tirade, used the occasion to lambaste the Argentine media, saying he had been treated "like dirt . . . like garbage."

Two other teams also qualified Wednesday. Switzerland tied Israel, 0-0, in Basel to book its berth, and Slovakia edged Poland, 1-0, in heavy snow in Chorzow, Poland, to earn its first World Cup place as an independent nation.

Eight European teams will play off for four remaining World Cup places: Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia and Ukraine. The pairings will be announced Monday.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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