The U.S. men’s national soccer team beat Honduras on Tuesday night in front of 20,250 fans behind Jozy Altidore’s goal in the 71st minute.
“Utah gave us a real home field advantage, and that’s what we needed,” Altidore said. “It really gave us a boost.”
Altidore finished a pass from Fabian Johnson with a left-footed strike into the lower right corner. It was Altidore’s fourth goal in four games, becoming only the sixth American score in four straight games.
Team USA had many scoring opportunities but couldn’t quite find the net against a very defensive Honduras squad until Altidore’s goal.
“A good team finds ways to score, and that’s what they did,” U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsman said. “They scored, and they deserve a huge compliment. In a game like this, what really matters is that you keep going and be patient and find the goal.”
The win puts the U.S. in prime position leading into the last portion of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Team USA is in first place with 13 points and has a 99.7 percent chance to qualify for the World Cup according to ESPN.com. It was the third consecutive victory in World Cup qualifying and showed the growth of Team USA on the international stage.
“The big picture is that we are growing with every game,” Klinsmann said.
Not only is the U.S. men’s national team growing, the sport is growing in popularity in the country and specifically in Utah.
The game was played in Sandy’s Rio Tinto stadium, home to Real Salt Lake of the MLS. Real Salt Lake’s attendance is at an all-time high, mirroring the growth of soccer’s popularity in the Salk Lake valley and all of Utah. This popularity evidenced itself Tuesday night with a record-setting audience. It was the largest crowd ever to watch the U.S. men’s national team play at Rio Tinto.
MLS has grown steadily each year in existence and is currently the third highest attended professional sports league on a per-game basis. Real Salt Lake’s popularity has been helped by the team’s winning the 2009 MLS Cup Championship and moving into Rio Tinto. One of the major factors in the attendance increase has been the popularity among 18–30-year-olds.
The popularity of soccer in the area brought Team USA to Rio Tinto, as the team hoped for an enthusiastic, loud environment. The U.S. will return to Rio Tinto on July 13 to host Cuba in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and will anticipate a similar atmosphere.
“We know that the people here love soccer,” midfielder Michael Bradley said before Tuesday’s game.
The support of RSL and Team USA is earning Salt Lake the reputation of a soccer hot spot as the sport grows in the U.S. The fans lived up to their reputation Tuesday night.
Team USA will resume action on July 5 in San Diego against Guatemala as the Gold Cup gets underway. The next World Cup qualifier is against Costa Rica, currently sitting in second place, on Sept. 6.