United States Rallies Late to Defeat Honduras, 2-0, in CONCACAF Gold Cup
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Santino Quaranta charged toward one of the few corners of RFK Stadium where there were more red-clad fans than those in blue and white and slid on his knees, arms flexed out to the side, "a million things" rushing through his head.
The moment could not have been more perfect.
Making his return to the U.S. national team for the first time since 2006, and marking yet another inspiring step in his comeback from a drug addiction that nearly derailed his career and his life, Quaranta had just buried a blistering shot from the top of the 18-yard box to give the United States the lead over Honduras -- turning this already special night into the ideal memory.
With his first goal ever for the United States, in front of his hometown crowd, Quaranta, the 24-year-old D.C. United midfielder, turned a previously scoreless game to the Americans' favor and eventually into a 2-0 victory in the first round of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
"It was a very special night for me, personally, but to be back wearing the [U.S.] jersey was probably more special," Quaranta said. "Just to be back on the field with the team and to listen to the anthem was very emotional for me. Because it has been such a fun and long road back."
On Tuesday at training, Quaranta said it would be difficult to hold back the emotions of returning to the field in a U.S. jersey in front of his home crowd. During the anthem, Quaranta clenched his eyes tightly shut and stared at the ground, trying to contain those feelings.
But after the goal, the emotions overflowed.
"It's hard to explain, you know, it was special," Quaranta said. "And to be able to do it in front of my wife and my two kids was very special and that's the most important thing to me now. [Coach] Bob [Bradley] said before we got on the bus, 'It's only a game,' and I was trying to tell myself all day just enjoy it, but it was difficult."
Honduras was the last CONCACAF opponent to defeat the United States on its home soil, 3-2 in World Cup qualifying at RFK Stadium in 2001. That upset occurred in front of a Honduran partisan crowd of 54,282.
But it had been a 54-match unbeaten streak against regional rivals at home since that result eight years ago, and Wednesday night the United States was able to keep that streak intact, and now has a clear path to a first-place finish in its Gold Cup group.
Quaranta's goal in the 75th minute came off a well-executed buildup featuring Brian Ching and two second-half substitutes, Benny Feilhaber and Charlie Davies, and finished with his decisive strike from the top of the box on the right side.
Minutes later, Ching would extend the lead, heading in a cross from defender Steve Cherundolo and making a win from what had been an average American performance seemingly headed for a scoreless draw.