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U.S. Open World Cup qualifying on losing note

Clint Dempsey (L) of the U.S. is challenged by Honduras' Victor Bernardez (C) and Roger Espinoza during their 2014 World Cup qualifying socc
Clint Dempsey (L) of the U.S. is challenged by Honduras' Victor Bernardez (C) and Roger Espinoza during their 2014 World Cup qualifying socc

(Reuters) - The United States' World Cup hopes were dealt a blow with a 2-1 defeat to Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday in the opening match of final round of CONCACAF qualifying for each team.

Nine games remain for Juergen Klinsmann's U.S. team as they bid for a spot in Brazil 2014 but with their next away game a tough trip to Mexico City, the loss puts pressure the Americans.

In hot and humid conditions, the U.S. struggled to find any sort of tempo but they grabbed the lead in the 35th minute thanks to some inspired individual play.

Midfielder Jermaine Jones lofted the ball gently over the home defense with a perfectly weighted pass to Clint Dempsey and the Tottenham striker finished superbly with a well-timed volley.

But the lead lasted just four minutes with Honduras midfielder Juan Carlos Garcia equalizing with a brilliant overhead kick from inside the penalty area.

Honduras dominated the second half with strike pairing Jerry Bengtson and Carlo Costly causing plenty of problems for a shaky looking new U.S. central defensive duo of Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez.

Costly had an effort ruled out for offside and then headed just wide while Oscar Boniek Garcia flashed a drive just wide of Tim Howard's right hand post.

It was no real surprise then, when Honduras grabbed the winner with 12 minutes of normal time remaining - Bengtson, who plays in the U.S. for New England Revolution, took advantage of some woeful defending and slotted into an empty net.

Few would argue with the outcome as Honduras had a better shape and looked more comfortable on the ball while the U.S. struggled physically in the heat and lacked width in midfield and solidity at the back.

The U.S. return to action against Costa Rica in Denver on March 22 and with a road trip to face Mexico in Mexico City four days later they will be desperate for a win.

Six teams are battling for three automatic qualification spots from CONCACAF for the finals in Brazil next year with the fourth-placed team playing off with the champion of the Oceania region.

Later on Wednesday, Mexico host Jamaica while Costa Rica travel to Panama.

(Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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