Bruce Arena probably couldn’t have drawn it up any better. The U.S. Men’s National Team scored early and often on Friday night, thumping Honduras, 6-0, to leap back into the World Cup qualifying race.
From the opening moments of Friday’s clash at Avaya Stadium, the U.S. were superior in every way. They were quick, decisive, vicious, ripping apart the Honduras defense again and again. Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey did whatever they wanted on the ball as the U.S. controlled the game to seize control of their World Cup destiny.
There’s a lot of work to be done, as a trip to Panama looms. But, after a less-than-ideal start to the qualifying campaign, the U.S. are back on their feet.
Here’s a look at several takeaways from Friday’s match:
As the Jurgen Klinsmann era crept to a close, it was clear that U.S. was a team in need of a spark. The confidence appeared gone. There was no self-belief, no spunk, and the results showed it.
On Friday, that confidence returned, at least for 90 minutes, and, once again, the result showed it.
The U.S. played free on Friday night, even without several star contributors. The players inserted into the lineup stepped up in a big way. The returning regulars were massive, creating goal after goal while limiting Honduras to next to nothing on the attacking end. It was a dream performance in every way, one that should restore all of the goodwill lost back in November.
At this point, the sample size is too small to make any sweeping assumptions or declarations, but it’s impossible to deny the difference. The first two matches of Arena’s tenure started with a bit of a whimper, but quickly pushed into a major crescendo on Friday night. It was an ideal performance on an ideal night, one that kickstarted U.S. hopes while serving as a momentous start to a new era.
Before Friday’s match, I made the point to say that the USMNT needed to unleash Christian Pulisic, give him the reins to create, attack and disrupt however his heart desires.
Well, there you go.
Pulisic earned SBI USMNT Man of the Match honors for his efforts in Friday’s demolition. It started early, as his shot rebounded to Sebastian Lletget for the USMNT’s first. A goal and two assists soon followed as Pulisic played maestro, goalscorer and artist as he tormented the Honduras defense again and again.
Still, Pulisic’s game was so much more than that. At one point, with a defender closing in, Pulisic took a magnificent touch past him and straight down the line, leaving his man helpless as he darted. The referee ruled the ball out of play, much to Pulisic’s chagrin, but it was a sign. It was a display of confidence, skill, technique all but unmatched in the USMNT pool.
Friday night was a display of just what Pulisic is now, not just what he could be. His Borussia Dortmund form is no fluke and his game is more than prepared for the international level. It’s time to give him the keys and let him run.
RETURN OF DEMPSEY
In the lead up to Friday’s match, much was made of Clint Dempsey’s return. Questions continued throughout the week, much like they have throughout the past several months. He’d made his return to the game on the club level, but was he ready to assume the responsibility of 90 minutes of World Cup qualifying?
He was, in a big way, as Dempsey fired his second ever international hat-trick. Ho hum.
Playing as a second forward to Jozy Altidore, Dempsey drifted in and out of the Honduras defense, who was clearly overmatched for all 90 minutes of Friday’s match. His first was a sublime display of touch and power as he outmuscled and outhustled his defender to fire home a Pulisic chip. His second was a display of speed and intelligence as he darted past the Honduras centerbacks and onto Altidore.
Then came his third, a stunning free kick to cap off a memorable return to the national team. Dempsey still needs time as he pushes back towards 100 percent health and fitness, but Friday night’s match was certainly a heck of a start.
BAD BREAK FOR DA BOY
Sebastian Lletget’s start was simply a continuation of January camp. He was crisp, dynamic in the attack, as he fired an early goal to ignite the USMNT attack.
Thrown into the fire for his first real USMNT match, Lletget looked up to the task. Unfortunately for the LA Galaxy midfielder, though, his strong impression didn’t last long.
Lletget was taken out just 18 minutes in, cutting his World Cup debut short in a big way. It was an unfortunate end to what looked to be a spectacular start as Lletget seamlessly replaced Jermaine Jones in the center of the field.
In those 18 minute, though, Lletget showed he belonged. His run to the backpost resulted in a simple tap-in, but it showed confidence and awareness in what was likely one of the biggest games of his life. The ensuing 10 minutes or so, Lletget was a noted bright spot on a night that was cut too short due to injury.
If you thought that was a good performance wait until we unleash the power of Wonolowski!
This idea that Cameron and Pulisic were played out of position as some kind of indictment on Arena because Juergen did things like that is just silly and lacking perspective. Cameron has lined up at RB for stoke more than any other position(CB, CDM) he’s played during his time there. Pyloric has been playing the second forward/cam position at Dortmund lately and he played there with the US youth teams to great success. Juergen is gone, whining about what he did amounts to burning empty calories because it doesn’t matter. People are still bringing Landon Donovan into their comments because of his analysis of the game as if he matters in the grand scheme of things, well, he doesn’t! I expect people to never be satisfied with anything regarding the US team, I have my druthers too, but this game was not a given like many people seem to think considering how we had looked before Bruce was brought back in. There was the thought that we were unbeatable in Colombia and look how that turned out, point is, this game showed some attacking we haven’t seen from this team and people looked like they knew their roles, which is important going forward! It’s okay to be excited about this win, because again nothing is guaranteed in WCQ whether your home or away. Some things will still have to be sorted out in the back, namely Gonzalez who continues to make head scratching decisions and may see his call ups lessened if he doesn’t step the hell up! All on all it was an effort to be proud about and one that may see this team take off
Arriola added and brooks, morris, lletget and orozco sent back their clubs
Great game on many fronts. The defense was understandably shaky, with 3 new guys(Cameron out of position). I know we all loved the offense, but Tuesday in Panama could be a little nastier. I don’t normally think of the Panamanians as nasty or dirty, but I am sure they will see the film of #10 running all over the place. I am also sure that Dempsey and Altidore will be explaining to him what is about to happen. He will be chopped down over and over again, unless the referee starts handing out cards, which I don’t expect to happen on the road. I am sure he is mature enough to handle it, I just hope he doesn’t get hurt, and I hope we are prepared to win an ugly game.
Agree completely. I take heart in the fact that this is definitely not our first team defense and yet not only did we get the much needed 3 points but we also corrected the goal differential issue as it presently existed. Of course, none of it matters until the final tally is taken. Agree that the Panama game may be quite ugly.
I’ve been waiting a longtime for the USMNT to play this type of attacking game.
I’ve been trying to temper my personal CP22 hype train although there have been enough viewings at Dortmund to make it easey to anticipate great things for this very young man. Most elite level strikers and forwards are capable of scoring if someone can provide good service. This is a kid who sees the game so instinctively and then has the skill level to take advantage of the opportunities that he sees. That means that people likeDempsey and Altidore will see the benefit and today was an example of that. Will it happen every game? I doubt it, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to see more scoring opportunities if he can stay healthy (he’s going to have a target on his back)
A side note on Jozy. His wide body has led to what appears to be a mistaken impression that he could be a target forward. His hold up play is not that good for a giant man and he’s really not that good in the air either (yes, I know he’s scored some goals with his head, it’s just my observation). What I’ve seen him him do well is these little flick ons and soft passes in the box which was on display today. Even though he looks the part, his skill set is just not right for a lone stiker and many have commented in the past that he is better with a partner. He’s not my favorite by a long shot and I believe I prefer Bobby Wood who is skillful and has more energy, but there’s a soccer player in there(Jozy, that is), just not the one that he looks like.
Lletget was legit in this game as was Nagbe but when even Bedoya looks skillful (I’m not saying he’s a bad player) you have to wonder if the quick start didn’t pretty much push the Hondurans below whatever their usual level might be.
Small sample siz but a ver fun game to watch.
“there’s a soccer player in there, just not the one that he looks like.”
jozy needs this in bold 24-point type at the top of his resume. it’s amazing how many people still haven’t figured this out (including people whose job it is to know this).
I suspect Jozy’s play in and around the box has improved because of his experience gained by playing with Giovinco.
Jozy has always had those instincts, he has just been played incorrectly for most of his career.
Incredibly relieved that I am not the only one who notices this. Since early in his career I’ve known this. At NYRB he was a LS that played more like a LW. He was at his best when running at people with support.
As soon as he got to Europe they bulked him up and stuck him on islands expecting Diego Costa or lukaku. At AZ he returned to the pass happy running striker and had success for it. Then he went to THAT PLACE…. and yea… lone striker syndrome. Back at TFC he returned to the downhill striker he used to be by combining with Gio. Look at all his success and it was with a partner. So naturally, just like with Davies, stick an agile attacking minded player with him and he thrives. I once said he and Dempsey were similar in liking to play off others and got laughed at but perhaps people see what I mean now.
No man wins alone…
One thing being overlooked is the team defense had gone as soft is I’d seen watching them play since the late 80s. The bite was back and that’s necessary in CONCACAF. The offense had also gone a little too far in the direction of pointless passing, and is now more direct, headers, creating chances as opposed to possession.
The backline remains shaky and that may cost us in big games but just “being ourselves” should get us back top 3.