No captain's armband, no problem for Clint Dempsey.
With the U.S. men's national team's captain's honors going from Dempsey to Michael Bradley for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the Seattle Sounders star scored twice to lift the USA to a 2-1 win over Honduras in their Group A clash at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan was tested in the opening minutes by Anthony Lozano, and he came up with a diving save to keep Honduras off the board. After navigating through the opening 20 minutes on the back foot, the USA took the lead off a set piece.
Dempsey put the U.S. up 1-0 in the 25th minute, heading home a rebound off a Jozy Altidore shot after a wild, pinballing, post-corner kick sequence in the Honduras box. Dempsey doubled the lead in the 64th minute off another set piece. Bradley served in a curling ball from the left, and Dempsey was first to meet it at the edge of the six-yard box to head home his second.
The U.S. was forced to hold on from that point forward. Carlos Discua, moments after coming on for Honduras, sliced the lead in half in the 69th minute, taking a pass from Maynor Figueroa, going on a run down the right channel and beating Guzan with an emphatic finish.
Honduras missed a couple of late chances to pull level in the closing 10 minutes. Substitute striker Eddie Hernandez missed a cross to the far post that Guzan had misjudged, and then minutes later rolled a shot from inside the box just wide of the right post after turning and firing away.
With Panama and Haiti playing to a 1-1 draw in the first Group A match, the USA takes first place in the group heading into Friday's second match against Haiti. If the USA can successfully defend its Gold Cup title, it will seal automatic qualification to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
Here's how the match unfolded:
GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)
DEFENDERS: Ventura Alvarado (Club America), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Greg Garza (Atlas), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers)
MIDFIELDERS: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
GOALKEEPERS: Donis Escober (Olimpia); Luis Lopez (Real España); Orlin Vallecillo (Victoria)
DEFENDERS: Brayan Beckeles (Boavista); Wilmer Crisanto (Motagua); Maynor Figueroa (Unattached); Henry Figueroa (Motagua); Bryan Garcia (Vida); Johnny Leveron (Marathon); Johnny Palacios (Olimpia)
MIDFIELDERS: Bryan Acosta (Real España); Jorge Claros (Qingdao Jonoon); Carlos Discua (Motagua); Oscar Boniek Garcia (Houston Dynamo); Mario Martinez (Real España); Alfredo Mejia (Panthrakikos FC); Andy Najar (Anderlecht); Romell Quioto (Olimpia); Luis Garrido (Houston Dynamo)
FORWARDS: Erick Andino (Victoria); Rubilio Castillo (Motagua); Eddie Hernandez (Motagua); Anthony Lozano (Olimpia)