KENYA BROWN - Monday, March 27, 2017
The United States needed to get their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track and they did in a big way as they totally decimated Honduras on Friday in San Jose, California.
After losing their first two qualifying games in November last year, the team needed a shakeup, with former head coach Jurgen Klinsmann receiving his walking papers and Bruce Arena being reappointed to the post he last held in 2006. Since then the former Los Angeles Galaxy coach has looked to restore the team's confidence and get them refocused on the mission at hand which is to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
However, Arena would have to build a team without the likes of Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris and DeAndre Yedlin as they were ruled out due to various injuries. The biggest question as the team entered the game was Clint Dempsey. After being out of the team, yet playing at all the past few months due to an irregular heartbeat, could he remain an impact player for the team? All signs looked promising as he played three 90-minute games for the Seattle Sounders as the Major League Soccer season got underway.
Arena gave starts to Sebastian Lletget and Darlington Nagbe on the wings in a 4-4-2 formation, while Geoff Cameron made his return to the team from injury as he filled in for Yedlin at right back. Jorge Villafaña started at left back in the place of the usual starter, Johnson, and Omar Gonzalez returned to the starting lineup to partner with John Brooks in the center of the US defense. Christian Pulisic was moved to a central midfield role alongside captain Michael Bradley. Jozy Altidore and Dempsey started up top for the team.
One of the biggest issues for the US under Klinsmann was their knack for starting games slowly and finding themselves behind. This changed within five minutes of the start of this game as Lletget gave them the early lead with a goal. Altidore played Pulisic into the area with a pass. The 18-year-old's shot was deflected by Honduras goalkeeper Donis Escober, but the ball fell into the path of Lletget who easily tapped it in to send the capacity crowd at the Avaya Stadium into a frenzy.
Lletget's night would be short-lived though as he was replaced by Alejandro Bedoya 18 minutes in as he went down with a foot injury.
However that did not slow down the United States' momentum as Bradley would go ahead to double the team's lead in the 27th minute with a long-range strike.
Dempsey then scored his first of the night in the 32nd minute when Pulisic provided him with a chipped pass over the defense. However, the work was not done as the forward had to fend of two defenders before he got his shot past Escober.
If the first half was impressive, the US showed they could be even more ruthless as they entered the second half.
Pulisic made it 4-0 within seconds of the second half as he and Altidore once again linked up as the Toronto FC forward provided him with another pass into the area that the wunderkind this time slotted pass the goalkeeper.
Dempsey scored his second goal three minutes later as Pulisic sent him a diagonal pass towards the area. He then rounded Escober before easily putting the ball in the back of the net.
The Texan sealed his hat-trick in the 54th minute with a free kick that was certainly not going to be stopped from going into the goal.
On a perfect night in San Jose, the United States reignited their World Cup campaign in a big way as moved from the bottom of the standings to fourth place with three points.
Now it is off to Panama where the US will look to maintain their momentum as they look to continue their move up the standings.