Playing In Miserable Cold, It Was The Texans Who Led USMNT To Win

The U.S. men’s national team has never played a game like Wednesday night in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The temperature at Allianz Field was measured in single digits, the wind chill a dozen degrees below zero. Americans may be more accustomed to just frigid weather than Honduras, but it was the Texas boys who made the difference for the USMNT in a crucial 3-0 win in World Cup qualifying. 

Weston McKennie, who grew up in Little Elm, Texas, not far from where FC Dallas makes its home in Frisco, scored the opener to send the Americans on their way to a relatively straightforward win. Kellyn Acosta, born a few miles away in Plano, set up all three goals with exquisite set pieces. Striker Ricardo Pepi, an El Paso native, occupied defenders all night. Reggie Cannon, who grew up in Grapevine, another Dallas suburb, held down the right flank. Jesús Ferreira, who moved to Dallas from Colombia as a child, spelled Pepi with 15 good minutes off the bench. 

USMNT vs Honduras Highlights

Weston McKennie celebrates scoring vs. Honduras. Photo: Getty Images

It may have been freezing cold in Minnesota, but the Texans combined for more goals and assists than there were degrees Fahrenheit at Allianz Field.

Wednesday night’s match wasn’t exactly a must-win for the U.S., but given the schedule ahead (at Mexico, home to Panama, at Costa Rica), the three points make the USMNT’s path to Qatar much simpler. Beating Panama in Orlando on March 27 should be enough

The U.S. can thank its Texans for the vital win in unthinkable conditions.

Before the match, Honduras coach Hernán Dario Gómez complained about the playing conditions. Los Catrachos were eliminated from qualifying after losing to El Salvador on Sunday and wanted no part of the single-digit temperatures and wind chill near 15 below zero.

You can’t blame him. I wouldn’t want to play soccer in that weather. It was 12 degrees outside my apartment on Wednesday in Boulder, Colorado, and I didn’t even think about opening the door to go outside once. That’s far too cold for my Texas blood, and apparently the blood of Honduran players Romell Quioto and Luis López.

But the Texans on the USMNT didn’t seem to mind. 

USMNT vs Honduras Highlights

McKennie opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a soaring header. The U.S. had yet to score a goal off a set piece in qualifying, but his connection with Acosta’s superb cross was the perfect way to start the match for the Americans.

No American is playing soccer better than Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie right now. His passing was immaculate, completing 46 of 54 (85 percent) in 84 minutes. He completed four of five dribbles, made two interceptions, one clearance and eight recoveries. We haven’t seen an American dominate in midfield like this since Michelle Akers was playing. 

There was a worry going in that the loss of Tyler Adams to injury would leave a hole in midfield. Acosta made sure Adams wasn’t missed, playing the holding midfield role wonderfully and setting up every goal with his set-piece delivery. Without a doubt, Acosta should take every offensive free kick and corner kick when he’s in the game, even if Christian Pulisic is playing. (Pulisic started on the bench on Wednesday.) 

Acosta wasn’t credited with an assist on the second, but he probably should have been. On a similar set piece but from the opposite side, his well-placed cross created enough havoc for Walker Zimmerman to poke home for a 2-0 cushion before halftime. 

It was an Acosta corner kick that found the feet of Pulisic (after a flick-on from Pepi) to make it 3-0. 

During the match, FC Dallas tweeted that it was the backbone of the USMNT. It’s hard to argue against the sentiment, as much as it pains me to say it as a Houston native. 

McKennie, Acosta, Pepi, Cannon, Ferreira, Chris Richards, Bryan Reynolds, Tanner Tessmann and Paxton Pomykal all came through the FC Dallas ranks. Where would the USMNT be in World Cup qualifying without those players? Certainly not celebrating a 3-0 win over Honduras on Wednesday night.

Much was made of the weather in Minnesota for this vital World Cup qualifier. Most Hondurans probably aren’t used to playing in this type of weather, but neither are the Texans who powered the Americans to victory (nor Walker Zimmerman, of Georgia).

Next up for the U.S.: a location a bit closer to home for the Texans. The USMNT will travel to the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on March 24 to play archrival Mexico. A point would be great, but with Wednesday’s win, the Americans know they can afford a loss as long as they beat Panama three days later. 

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