USA players (red jersey) celebrate after scoring against host Honduras in a World Cup qualifier on September 5, 2017, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras -- For the first time since the qualifying cycle for the 1990 FIFA World Cup, the United States' quest to secure a spot in the globe’s largest single sporting event will come down to the wire.
The fourth-place Americans (2W-3D-3L, 9 points) will welcome third-place Panama (2-4-2, 10) to Orlando, Florida, on October 6 and then visit last-place Trinidad & Tobago (2-3-3, 9) four days later.
“The door to Russia, there’s not even a crack open right now,” said U.S. head coach Bruce Arena. “There’s a lot of work to be done to get to Russia.”
On Wednesday, the U.S. grinded out a 1-1 draw against host Honduras. It was hardly one of the squad's most memorable matches, but a valuable road point was salvaged.
“This is what qualifying is all about,” midfielder Michael Bradley remarked. “There are so many days when it’s not pretty. Honestly, in a lot of moments, it has nothing to do with football. It’s about finding a way to survive and having a group that can hold up in the toughest moments.”
It could not have gotten much tougher than at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano. Staring at a 1-0 deficit in the 85th minute, second-half substitute Bobby Wood leveled with his ninth international goal.
“That’s the type of mentality we have as a team,” stressed Wood. “We’re always fighting to the last minute, and that’s what we did.”
Concluded Bradley: “It’s never been easy. It’s never going to be easy, and we just have to keep going, but today was big time.”