Jordan Siebatcheu celebrates his game-winning goal. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Jordan Siebatcheu made the most of his short amount of playing time to rescue the U.S. men’s national team from a possible disappointing fate in Denver Thursday night.

Siebatcheu, who became cap tied when replaced Josh Sargent in the 78th minute, turned into the hero by connecting for the lone goal to boost the USA to a 1-0 triumph over Honduras in the Concacaf Nations League semifinals at Empower Field at Mile High.

It was far from a perfect game, but given the circumstances, just mucking it through against a difficult foe was good enough.

“We advanced to a final, so I think we’re happy,” said head coach Gregg Berhalter, who deployed the second youngest USMNT Starting XI in history.

The lineup averaged 23 years, 259 days (The youngest Start XI came in at 23 years, 172 days in a 1-0 loss to Colombia July 5, 2007, in the final group stage match of that year’s Copa America. The team had already been eliminated).

“This game is exactly what we needed. When you think about the level of competition the competitiveness of the game, some of these guys have never seen that before,” Berhalter said. “So, really happy with how they dealt with it. I think mental side of it to just keep grinding and wearing them down was really important.”

The Americans will face the winner of the Mexico-Costa Rica match in the second game of the doubleheader, on Sunday.

They averted a penalty-kick shootout, thanks to Siebatcheu. Center back John Brooks chipped the ball into the penalty area that was headed by Weston McKennie. Siebatcheu headed the ball from six yards past goalkeeper Luis Lopez.

Siebatcheu, who recently completed  a season for Swiss champion Young Boys, tallied his first international goal.

“That’s why we put Jordan on, because we know he’s a force on crosses,” Berhalter said. “We know he battles in the penalty box. Good physicality. He gave us the edge that we needed. So, we’re really happy with him, that a lot of similar stuff that we saw in Switzerland. To apply it to a game like this and also get his first taste of what these games are like was really important.”

For the opening 88 minutes, neither team could find the range.

The USMNT could not put many scoring chances together.

“We’ve got to find our rhythm,” said goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who wore the captain’s armband. “We have to be smarter. We have to be more clever.”

Christian Pulisic, the team’s best creative force, whether it is scoring or setting up goals, turned out to be a non-factor as the Central American side did a good job of marking him out of the match. On Saturday, Pulisic and Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League before jetting across the Atlantic Ocean.

“Talked at halftime about isolating him wide,” Berhalter said. “I thought we could have done that more. We didn’t get that done enough. He was open in the first half with tons of space. That’s the type of spaces we want to get him involved in because he’s so good 1 v 1. It’s also mixing it up, going behind the line at times, That’s that’s going to be important for him. But overall, when you think about what he’s been through in this last week for him to have a performance like that, it shows how much guts he has and shows how much this team means to him because he had a very strong performance, in terms of his work rate and his effort.”

Gio Renya had the first good scoring chance for the USA, making some nifty moves in tight spaces before he placed an eight-yard shot to the left of the net in the 10th minute.

Within a two-minute span, Sargent literally used his head on both sides of the field.

With Steffen making a bad decision to go out for a long ball in the 28th minute, Sargent headed the ball off the line on an unguarded goal.

“It was a great moment about his focus on that play,” Berhalter said. “It’s incredible. Forwards get a lot of credit for scoring goals but this is a play that helped us win the game, for sure. You go down one 1-0, they get even deeper, more compact, play more than the counter attack. [They’re] very dangerous counterattacking. We would have been in some trouble.”

Only two minutes later, he was some 120 yards away on the opposite end of the pitch, but his close-range shot off an Antonee Robinson cross from the left flank was saved by keeper Luis Lopez.

Honduras forward Anthony Lozano had an excellent opportunity to break the ice as he went in 1 v 1 on Steffen in the 51st minutte, the USMNT goalkeeper knocked away his attempt to keep the game scoreless.

Steffen was at the top of his game again to save on a long shsot by Edwin Rodriguez in the 77th minute.