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Feb 6 (Reuters) - The United States' bid for a place in Brazil 2014 suffered an early setback with a 2-1 defeat to Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday in the opening match of final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
Nine games remain for Juergen Klinsmann's U.S. team as they bid for a spot in the finals but with their next away game a tough trip to Mexico City, the loss puts pressure on the Americans.
In hot and humid conditions, the U.S. struggled to find any sort of tempo but they grabbed the lead in the 35th minute thanks to some inspired individual play.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones lofted the ball gently over the home defence with a perfectly weighted pass to Clint Dempsey and the Tottenham striker finished superbly with a well-timed volley.
But the lead lasted just four minutes with Honduras midfielder Juan Carlos Garcia equalising with a brilliant overhead kick from inside the penalty area.
Honduras dominated the second half with strike pairing Jerry Bengtson and Carlo Costly causing plenty of problems for a shaky looking new U.S. central defensive duo of Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez.
Costly had an effort ruled out for offside and then headed just wide while Oscar Boniek Garcia flashed a drive just wide of Tim Howard's right hand post.
It was no real surprise then, when Honduras grabbed the winner with 12 minutes of normal time remaining - Bengtson, who plays in the U.S. for New England Revolution, took advantage of some woeful defending and slotted into an empty net.
Few would argue with the outcome as Honduras had a better shape and looked more comfortable on the ball while the U.S. struggled physically in the heat and lacked width in midfield and solidity at the back.
The U.S. return to action against Costa Rica in Denver on March 22 and with a road trip to face Mexico in Mexico City four days later they will be desperate for a win.
"It is a tough start. We knew that, three games out of four are away from home but it is what it is and so we have to fix it now against Costa Rica and then in Mexico," Klinsmann told ESPN.
The former Germany national team coach said his choice of Gonzalez and Cameron had not been the decisive factor.
"I think they did a solid job, I mean this is a learning curve.
"It is a curve that we have to go through even if, here and there, a mistake will happen," he said.
Six teams are battling for three automatic qualification spots from CONCACAF for the finals in Brazil next year with the fourth-placed team playing off with the champion of the Oceania region.
Later on Wednesday, Mexico host Jamaica while Costa Rica travel to Panama. (Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Frank Pingue)