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U.S. forward Conor Casey (AP/Photo by Eduardo Verdugo)

Cup qualifiers

Sports | With a victory over Honduras, the U.S. men's soccer team played its way into next summer's FIFA World Cup

After defeating Honduras 3-2 Saturday night in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the U.S. men's national soccer team booked its ticket to next summer's FIFA World Cup with a game to spare.

Honduras is racked by debate over the removal from office of its left-wing president, but the raucous home crowd was united in delight as its national team dominated the scoreless first half. Immediately after halftime, the hard work of the Hondurans paid off when Julio Leon drilled a perfectly placed free kick past U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard to take the lead.

The U.S. responded with three goals in just over 10 minutes. First, in the 58th minute, combative forward Conor Casey beat the Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares in the air to head in the equalizer. And Casey wasn't finished, adding a second goal seven minutes later after receiving a defense-splitting through pass from Landon Donovan. Donovan added his name to the score sheet in the 69th minute, beating Valladares with a free kick after Casey was brought down just outside the penalty area.

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The United States survived a late scare, with Julio Leon scoring his second of the match in the 78th minute. Then Carlos Pavon missed a golden opportunity to level the score after Jonathon Spector handled the ball in the penalty area. Pavon skied the resulting penalty over the bar, relegating Honduras to its first home defeat in World Cup qualifying.

With the win, the U.S. team guaranteed itself a spot in the top three of its qualifying group: The pressure is now off for Wednesday's match against Costa Rica. Soccer archrival Mexico also clinched qualification Saturday with a 4-1 victory over El Salvador.

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