FRISCO, Texas - FC Dallas Homegrown Ricardo Pepi was the star of the show in the United States' 4-1 comeback win over Honduras in its third game of World Cup qualifying Wednesday night.
The El Paso, Texas native was involved in all four of the USMNT's goals and scored one of his own as he became the second-youngest (18 years and 242 days) U.S. player to score in a World Cup qualifier behind only Christian Pulisic (17 years, 349 days).
Pepi's big moment came in the 75th minute when he connected with DeAndre Yedlin's cross and headed the U.S. into the lead with his debut goal.
"It means a lot, it means a lot. Thank you to the fans," Pepi told CBS's Jenny Chiu after the game. "It wouldn't be able to be done with you guys...It gives me more motivation to work harder in the next couple of games so it's important."
Pepi also influenced the Americans' opening goal when he held up the ball and laid it off to Christian Pulisic at midfield who found Sebastian Lletget on the right wing. The LA Galaxy man crossed for Pepi but the defender's deflection fell kindly back to Antonee Robinson who brought the U.S. level. After scoring the second goal 30 minutes later, Pepi turned provider after latching onto a ball in behind and laying it off for Brendan Aaronson to smash home.
"What you love is that (Pepi) took this opportunity with two hands," Charlie Davies added during postgame. "When you have a player who makes this impact in his first game, that's his baseline. He's only going to get better."
Pepi nearly scored his second of the night later on when Tyler Adams played him in but the 18-year-old's shot was parried by the Honduran goalkeeper straight into the path of Lletget who tapped in the U.S.'s fourth.
“Unbelievable debut to his national career…He came out as a new golden boy," former USMNT defender Oguchi Onyewu said after the game. "He didn’t play like someone in their first cap, he played like who'd been here before.”
"This was a result that we needed. The fan base is very good here," Pepi told Telemundo. "It’s a difficult place to play but we were able to come away with a result. It’s a great atmosphere but we needed to get the three points. We tied the last two matches, so we really needed the three points and we were able to get that."
FC Dallas midfielder Bryan Acosta joined Pepi on the field for Honduras in the 73rd minute, subbing in for Deybi Flores. Acosta completed five passes and two crosses over his 17 minutes.
Earlier in the afternoon, Szabolcs Schön also started his nation's qualifier as Hungary defeated Andorra 2-1 at their home stadium, the Puskás Arena in Budapest. The 20-year-old notched his first senior assist for his country with a well-taken cross for Endre Botka who headed Hungary into a 2-0 lead. Schön played 74 minutes, created four chances and registered a 91% passing accuracy. Hungary sits in fourth place in its UEFA qualifying group behind England, Albania and Poland.