3/26 – US Nabs Huge 6-0 Win faces Panama Tues 10 pm on beIN Sports, Indy 11 Sat Home Opener at MIKE 3 pm on MyIndy TV
So I guess Coaching does make a difference. Wow – just 4 months after taking over for the German (Juergan Klinsmann) – Bruce Arena – who some would say is the Best American coach ever – showed what a difference a coach can make. With an attacking mindset – players in the CORRECT places with confidence galore and a clear understanding of what the plan is – the US scored the most goals they have scored in years. The 6-0 (yes 6 goal explosion included a hat-trick from the Best US Player ever Clint Dempsey. But make no mistake – this game was a coming out party for 18 YO US sensation Christian Pulisic who had a role in 5 of the 6 goals. He wore the #10 to perfection providing 2 assists, 1 goal and the first goal off his shot that was deflected by the keeper. Missing players all over the field like F Bobby Wood, MF Fabian Johnson, MF Jermaine Jones and left back Deandre Yedlin did not matter as Bruce relied on a mix of veterans like Gonzales and Cameron and Dempsey of course along with the mixing of Nagbe who played great on the left side, LB Villafana who was so good the ball rarely came down the left side and Leggitt who scored the first goal before going out hurt. Brooks and Bradley looked more comfortable in their roles in the middle of the pitch. Oh and Timmy Howard was well same ole Timmy – 4 huge saves on the night helping to keep the clean sheet. I thought the defense played with more of a bite- blocking plenty of the shots taken. There was a little doughnut in the middle at times as Pulisic was a little too high and removed from Bradley in the back. But boy when #10 got that ball – he took off and his creativy in the middle is something the US has honestly never had.
It will be interesting to see what changes Bruce makes Tuesday at Panama – where a win could move the US from bottom of the group last week to 2nd or 3rd at worse. 6 Goals – wow and it honestly it could have been 2 or 3 more. Has Dempsey proven enough to claim the start again – I think so – hattrick? Does Jones slide in on the right side mid instead of Bedoya? Do you start the same back line or slide Cameron inside and give someone a run on the right side?
Either way honestly its nice to understand what we are doing – to have a coach who seems to be making moves that make sense. Bruce obviously has his players believing and playing much, much better soccer. Lets see if it holds up on the road vs a good Panama team – currently 3rd just above the US in the group.
Oh and I am not going to let the horrible US Red Portugal look-a-like Nike Jersey thing alone. Honestly I watched CR7 play Sat and they are the EXACT SAME JERSEY except for the socks. Same for the Nike England Jerseys. Now that we have an American coaching the team again don’t we deserve a Unique US Jersey look. Come on NIKE – you are a US Company for heaven sakes – design a unique and special jersey for the USA don’t just copy the jersey you made for Portugal and England already.
GAMES ON TV
Sun, Mar 26
11:30 am Fox Sport2 England vs Lithuania WCQ
11:50 am ESPN 2 Azerbajan vs Germany WCQ
2:30 p.m., Fox Sport2: Montenegro vs. Poland WCQ
Tues Mar 28 –WCQ
11:50 am Fox Sport2 Russia vs. Belgium
2:35 p.m., beIN Sport Netherlands vs. Italy
2:45 p.m., ESPN3: Austria vs. Finland
2:55 p.m., ESPN2 France vs. Spain
7 pm beIN sport Mexico vs T&T
10 pm beIN Sport Panama vs USA WCQ
Fri, Mar 31
730 pm Fox Sport 1 Toronto vs Sporting KC
10 pm fox sport 1 Seattle vs Atlanta United
Sat Apr 1
7:30 am NBCSN Liverpool vs Everton – Derby
10 am NBCSN?? Leiscester City vs Stoke City
3 pm ?? Indy 11 vs Puerto Rico
7:30 pm beIN Sport NY Cosmos vs Miami
Sun Apr 2
10:15 am beIN sport Real Madrid vs Alves – (hopefully I will be there!)
11 am NBCSN Arsenal vs Man City
9 pm ESPN2 Portland vs NE
Sun Apr 9
7 pm Fox Sport 1 Sporting KC vs Colorado Rapids (Tim Howard)
US Player Ratings ESPN FC
Bruce Arena ‘not surprised’ Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey clicked
SAN JOSE, Calif. – U.S. men’s national team manager Bruce Arena was full of praise for his side after the Americans thrashed Honduras 6-0 in a World Cup qualifier.But he singled out hat trick hero Clint Dempsey, who made his return to the national team after missing the end of 2016 with an irregular heartbeat, calling his performance, “exceptional, damn good.”The U.S. was in control from the start, and broke on top through Sebastian Lletget in the fifth minute. The Americans extended their lead to 3-0 before half-time thanks to goals from Michael Bradley and Dempsey. The U.S. then turned the game into a complete runaway in the second half, with Christian Pulisic scoring just 13 seconds in. Dempsey then completed the rout with two superbly taken goals.”We had a good night,” said Arena at his postgame press conference. “Our finishing was exceptional, and some of our attacking play in the first half was great. The start of our second half was fantastic, and after that I thought we were a bit sloppy but I’m not complaining about a six-goal win in World Cup qualifying.”Arena admitted that when he first put the U.S. roster together, he expected that Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood would be his two starting forwards, but Wood was forced off the roster due to a back injury. Jordan Morris suffered an ankle injury as well. It was on Monday that Arena decided that Dempsey would start.”Why? We didn’t have anyone else,” he quipped. “It made it easy for me.”But Arena then stated that he had been watching Dempsey closely over the first few weeks of the MLS regular season, and liked what saw.”It was impressive the way he kept improving,” said Arena about Dempsey. “Checking with his fitness coaches there [in Seattle], we knew he could play. Then he plays late Sunday afternoon in Seattle, he comes in late Sunday night here, Monday he does a little bit of training, and he feels good. It was remarkable, and I say, ‘He’s got to play.'”Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, and Pulisic linked up well all night, despite Dempsey and Pulisic having never started a national team game together before. Arena said he expected the trio to perform well.”We’ve seen Clint do this before,” he said. “That’s not a surprise, and then there’s Jozy’s quality and Christian I’ve kind of seen a little bit of this in the last couple of months. I’m not surprised that they played well together.”Clint and Jozy know each other pretty well. Christian is just a natural. The game is easy for him. He’s got exceptional skill, vision, he’s pretty smooth. It was a nice combination of players.”Arena added that it was his intention for the U.S. to be aggressive right from the start, and his lineup, one that included talented, but relatively inexperienced players like Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, and Jorge Villafaña, was a reflection of that.”Our attitude was we were going to press and get at them as best we can,” he said. “Clearly a goal in the opening minutes of the game was big. I thought Honduras came at us a little bit after we scored, and I thought Michael’s goal was huge and Clint’s was tremendous and likely positioned us for the three points.”I’m amazed at how we came out in the second half to be honest with you. We told them at half-time that Honduras was going to come out and be all over us, and we wanted to play the opening kickoff at their end of the field. Little did I know it was going to result in a goal.”The only downside to the night was the early exits of Lletget, who was forced to depart with a foot injury in the 18th minute, and John Brooks, who Arena said had been battling a sinus infection. Arena said Lletget’s status was unknown at the moment, but he expected Brooks to recover.”[Brooks] is traveling,” said Arena. “Whether he likes it or not, he’s traveling.”Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.
In with the old and the new: Dempsey, Pulisic display prolific combination for USA
The wily veteran and bright-eyed star-in-the-making showed an uncanny connection in a much-needed result that helped recalibrate the USA’s World Cup qualifying campaign.GRANT WAHLSaturday March 25th, 2017
SAN JOSE, Calif. — One man is 34. The other is 18. One man is near the end of his historic national team career. The other is just at the start of a journey that has no limits of what it could become.But on the night the U.S. got its groove back, the connection between Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic transcended age and experience and boiled down to the most elemental part of this beautiful game. Here were two American jazz men—one from Nacogdoches, Tex.; the other from Hershey, Pa.—riffing with each other all night long, connecting in ways that suggested this wasn’t the first time they had started a game together, even though it was.This was sexy football, American style.The scoreboard would end up reading USA 6, Honduras 0 in Friday’s World Cup qualifier at Avaya Stadium, a result that brought the U.S. from sixth place to fourth place in the Hexagonal standings, just like that. But the moments that set your pulse racing came when Pulisic set up Dempsey on two exquisite goals, part of Dempsey’s hat trick on the night.On the first, with the U.S. up 2-0 in the first half, Pulisic hit a delicate lob that hit Dempsey’s right shoulder, whereupon Dempsey bulled his way into the Honduras box with defensive contact happening the entire time. It didn’t matter. Dempsey slammed it into the upper right corner.On the second, with the U.S. leading 4-0 in the second half, Pulisic paused on the ball in the Honduran end. Dempsey made a darting run toward the goal, and you could see the gap between the defenders that Pulisic saw and instantly exploited. The pass was something magical, a perfectly weighted ball on the ground that met Dempsey in stride and made his finish seem like an extension of one intuitive movement from both men.U.S. coach Bruce Arena, hoping to make an emphatic statement in his first World Cup qualifier since 2005, decided to start Dempsey earlier this week after it became clear that Jordan Morris wasn’t healthy enough to go. Dempsey had been out for six months–and nine from the national team–due to an irregular heartbeat that could have ended his playing career, but Arena said Dempsey and the Seattle Sounders fitness coaches had done the work to show he could play 90 minutes on Friday if needed.“Against this particular opponent, we were going to play two strikers and someone underneath them,” Arena said afterward. “We had to win this game and have an aggressive attacking concept to break down a team that defends very well and gets good numbers behind the ball in good spots on the field.”“So we had to have a number of players in advanced positions. Christian’s been playing in that spot a lot for Dortmund. I hate using these terms, but they kind of play with two No. 10s underneath a No. 9, and he’s been playing there [at No. 10] recently. And I think he’s been exceptional the last couple months with his club team. It’s clearly a position he’s played a lot, and I felt it was the right decision to make.”
Hearing Dempsey and Pulisic talk about connecting with each other was revealing too. When you write about players, you can’t help but jot “the 34-year-old Dempsey” and “the 18-year-old Pulisic.” But the fact is these guys aren’t thinking about ages when they’re on the field together. They’re just two inventive players finding a connection.“Man, he’s a great player,” Dempsey said of Pulisic after the game. “He can beat people one-on-one on the dribble and creates mismatches because of that. Someone else has to try to push to him, and if you’re able to make good runs he’ll find you. It’s great to have players like that who can win that 1-v-1 battle and kind of break teams open.”Pulisic was just as effusive about Dempsey.“Clint’s an easy guy to play with,” Pulisic said. “He’s strong, he’s technical, he makes good runs and he always gives good support. That’s exactly what you need from a forward, and he’s clinical.”It’s impossible to know how many times Pulisic and Dempsey will get to play with each other on the national team. For a guy who said he thought his career might have been over recently, Dempsey was talking on Friday night about hoping to play in another World Cup and hoping to get the chance to score three more goals and set a new all-time U.S. record (he trails Landon Donovan’s mark of 57 by two after Friday’s trio). At the rate he’s going, Pulisic will be wearing the U.S. No. 10 jersey for a very long time. But instead of wondering how many times we’ll get to see Pulisic and Dempsey play together, perhaps the best thing to do is savor it while we can and look forwar d to more opportunities to witness something special, something that, like Friday’s performance, won’t leave our memory banks anytime soon. Maybe the next one will come against Panama on Tuesday.
USMNT routs Honduras to emphatically get back on track in World Cup qualifying
Clint Dempsey had a hat trick, Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore were dynamic, and Bruce Arena’s USMNT routed Honduras 6-0 in a must-have game.SHAREGRANT WAHLSaturday March 25th, 2017
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Facing as close to a must-win situation as it had in many years for a World Cup qualifier, the U.S. poured in three goals in the first 32 minutes and rode a Clint Dempsey hat trick to a 6-0 beatdown of Honduras in coach Bruce Arena’s first qualifier since 2005.The U.S. marketing slogan for this game was #Get3—as in the three points that were crucial after losing the first two Hexagonal games in November—but few would have imagined that the U.S. would get three goals in the first half. In the end, the raft of goals came from Sebastian Lletget (who had to leave the game early with an injury), Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey (three) and Christian Pulisic.Entering the night in last place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal standings and with a -5 goal differential, the win–and vast margin–shoots the U.S. up to fourth place after three games.Here are three thoughts on the game:
Arena had the U.S. ready to play
After several players looked like they quit in the 4-0 November loss at Costa Rica that sealed Jurgen Klinsmann’s fate as the coach, the Americans were locked in from the start on Friday. Local boy Lletget, who was making his first qualifying start and probably wouldn’t have been in camp under Klinsmann, pounced on the rebound from Pulisic’s shot just five minutes in after Jozy Altidore had sent a gorgeous ball to Pulisic. It was the earliest U.S. qualifying goal since Brian McBride against Trinidad and Tobago in 2005, and it set the tone for the game. Every U.S. player had a fire—not just to win but to demolish the opponent. It was only one game, of course, but this was some sexy football, too.
Pulisic had his breakout U.S. game
The 18-year-old is the U.S.’s best player, period, but on Friday he really showed it in a game that mattered. What’s more, his understanding with Dempsey was almost telepathic. A delicate Pulisic lob found Dempsey for his first goal, when he bulled defenders off him and finished with aplomb. And a dagger of a pass on the floor from Pulisic to a streaking Dempsey created Dempsey’s second goal.
Arena surprised some people by opting to start Pulisic in the central attacking midfield instead of out wide, but it was a move that paid off in spades. Pulisic doesn’t have a ceiling, and that’s awfully exciting for U.S. fans.
Dempsey is still a gunslinger
It was only a few months ago that Dempsey’s playing career was in jeopardy due to an irregular heartbeat. In January, Arena said he wouldn’t call in Dempsey for these games, that it was too soon after his return to playing for Seattle, but then he reconsidered when the U.S. ran into a spate of injuries (including forwards Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris).Not only did Dempsey start on Friday, but he had a hat trick of beautiful goals that displayed the wide breadth of the Texan’s talents. The first goal showed off his strength (when many forwards would have hit the ground on the contact). The second, his run-making intelligence and connection with a terrific passer (Pulisic). The third? Well, that was all Dempsey, bending a free kick in from distance.Dempsey entered the game with 52 all-time U.S. goals, No. 2 in men’s national team history behind Landon Donovan’s 57. Now Dempsey is at 55 and within striking distance, perhaps as early as Tuesday night in Panama.Meanwhile, his U.S. team seems like another one entirely from that team we saw in November.
Making sense out of USMNT’s emphatic win over Honduras
In the lead up to Friday night’s clash at Avaya Stadium, the U.S. Men’s National Team was faced with a must-win scenario. What came next though was a bit more shocking than most U.S. Soccer supporters could have possibly imagined.An emphatic 6-0 scoreline was how it finished in San Jose, California as the USMNT took down Honduras to lift itself out of the cellar of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but it’s how Bruce Arena’s side picked up the result that was so impressive.After an extended layoff that began in the final months of the 2016 Major League Soccer season, Clint Dempsey has returned to both club and country with a vengeance following Friday’s performance. The artist formerly known as “Deuce” recorded a hat-trick in a span of 22 minutes to solidify an already convincing American lead, leaving Dempsey just two goals shy of Landon Donovan’s all-time USMNT scoring record (57).Dempsey wasn’t the only bright spot though, as Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, Jozy Altidore and most notably, Christian Pulisic, turned in stellar performances that really left Honduras with no chance to find its rhythm in the match.The 18-year-old Pulisic continues to be the talk of the town when it comes to the USMNT, and rightfully so given his club situation. There’s never been a U.S. talent succeeding at a club as big as Borussia Dortmund at such a young age, and Pulisic’s effort against Los Catrachos proved further that the young attacker could be the playmaker the Yanks have been looking for since Donovan’s retirement.Meanwhile, another player that turned in a great performance was Jozy Altidore, and probably not for the reasons you’d normally think. The Toronto FC striker didn’t get on the scoresheet, however, it was Altidore’s hold-up play and vision that helped the U.S. dominate Honduras.Altidore has long been a staple of the American attack, and an important one at that with his 37 international goals, which ranks third all-time for the U.S.. If the 27-year-old is able to replicate more performances like Friday night though, that makes the Stars and Stripes significantly more dangerous because of Altidore’s duel-threat ability.The lone area the U.S. will look to clean up heading into Tuesday’s important qualifying match against Panama will be some of the team’s defensive letdowns. Jorge Villafana turned in a strong performance in his WCQ debut at left back, while veteran Omar Gonzalez had several moments of weakness in the heart of the American backline.The Pachuca defender was caught out of position on several occasions and gave the ball away at times as well, but fortunately for the U.S., Honduras was unable to capitalize on those errors.Overall though, the U.S. did exactly what it needed… and then some. The three points was all Arena’s group could have hoped for from the start after lackluster performances against Mexico and Costa Rica back in November, but adding six goals could certainly help down the road as well if goal differential becomes a key factor in the Hexagonal.It’s difficult to say the U.S. is back because that’s a relative phrase that can be interpreted in numerous ways. The USMNT put in a stellar performance, albeit without key players like Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin defensively, while Bobby Wood and Jermaine Jones are two others that didn’t feature.
Only time will tell when it comes to how this team gels over an extended period of time, but it was certainly a dream start for the Americans as Arena Part Deux continues.Up next, Panama.
Pulisic enjoys international coming-out party in U.S. thrashing of Honduras
Bruce Arena’s competitive return to the U.S. national team proved to be a night of triumph for the coach and for a host of American players as the quest for the 2018 World Cup rocketed into gear on the back of a dominating 6-0 qualifying victory over Honduras.
The attacking trio of Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic was simply irresistible for most of the night. From the outset, the group found an understanding between one another that paid off in goals. Pulisic’s night in particular will rightly get a host of headlines. The 18-year-old, given a central creative role despite his age, was directly involved in four of the six American goals. Dempsey deserves heaps of praise for the hat trick — on a night when many thought him unready to step back into the international fray.
It seems petty to pick out too many negatives in a 6-0 thrashing, so we’ll keep it limited to a note about a sometimes discombobulated back line and strange tendency toward a vacant midfield that played no role in the overwhelming American victory. Injuries also bear mentioning, with Sebastian Lletget, Geoff Cameron and John Brooks all forced off early.
Manager rating out of 10
9 — The Hondurans certainly made it easy, but there’s no assessment to be made of Arena’s decisions other than that every one was perfect. Questions about the strength of the midfield and the lack of defensive support on the wings (where Honduras is most dangerous) proved unfounded. Deploying Pulisic in a free role under Altidore and Dempsey proved inspired. Every player was set out in a position they understand and were comfortable with, though the formation can best be described as “fluid.” Arena’s substitutions were all dictated by injuries.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Tim Howard, 8 — Made a handful of saves, none of them requiring anything spectacular.
DF Geoff Cameron, 7 — Effective in a right-back position before coming off with the game already decided. Far from perfect but more than good enough.
DF Omar Gonzalez, 7 — Questionable when on the ball, and made on egregious error that led to Honduras’s best chance of the night. Solid overall, though.
DF John Brooks, 7 — Provided a few key interventions but also allowed himself to be turned more than once. Read the game reasonably well.
DF Jorge Villafana, 7 — The nature of the American approach left him on an island more than once. The scoreline made that fact irrelevant, and his night was solid otherwise.
MF Michael Bradley, 7 — Sat deep, played his position. Made a few characteristic turnovers and was too slow on occasion. Connected passes with acres of space in front of him to good effect.
MF Sebastian Lletget, NR — No rating for the LA Galaxy midfielder, who scored the opening goal for the United States, due to an early injury.
MF Christian Pulisic, 9.5 — A coming-out party of epic proportions, reinforcing the obvious fact that he’s the U.S.’s best attacking player at the age of 18. Revelatory vision.
MF Darlington Nagbe, 8 — Quiet excellence maintaining possession up the left flank. Able to push high and contribute to the overloads the Americans used on the left side.
FW Clint Dempsey, 9 — A near-perfect return for the U.S. legend. The hat trick speaks for itself, but he was involved and dangerous all night long.
FW Jozy Altidore, 8.5 — No goals, but that’s just about the only negative thing that can be said about his performance. Provided perfect passes to set up more than one of the goals.
MF Alejandro Bedoya, 7 — Entered the game cold and stabilized the right side of midfielder immediately. Strong passing all night and did his usual work tracking back.
DF Graham Zusi, 6.5 — Competent coming on for Cameron, without any requirement to get forward. Made an important intervention late in the match.
DF Tim Ream, 6.5 — Forced on for Brooks when he likely didn’t expect to play. Did not stand out in any particularly negative way through the final 20 minutes.Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.
Player ratings from USMNT’s pounding of Honduras
Battered. Throttled. Eviscerated.Pick your verb of dominance, the United States likely fit it well in a 6-0 destruction of Honduras at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.[ MORE: Recap + video | Three things ]The win boosts the U.S. in World Cup qualifying after their 0-2 start, but how did the individuals fare? Obviously well.
Tim Howard — 7 — The team just feels in a safer place with the veteran back there. If the U.S. goes to the 2018 World Cup, Howard remains their No. 1 (and there probably never should have been a question. Sorry Brad).
Jorge Villafana — 7 — Tidy passing and a low-risk game from the Santos Laguna man.
John Brooks (Off 70′) — 7 — An early error before recovering to be his usual free-clearing, athletic self. Scary injury took him out late, as he looked dazed. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.
Omar Gonzalez — 5 — He wasn’t bad, but Gonzalez is still a positional question mark. Bailed out a couple times by Brooks.
Geoff Cameron (Off 59′) — 6 — Out of position and a bit hobbled, he wasn’t at his best.
Michael Bradley — 7 — One of his better USMNT games in a long time.
Sebastian Lletget (Off 17′) — 8 — Scored, then got hurt on a roasting run down the right.
Darlington Nagbe — 6 — One or two electric moments in the first half, but overall a quiet enough night for the Timbers man.
Christian Pulisic — 9 — Hard to not to hand the kid a 10. He’s quite frankly the most exciting American talent in the history of the program.
Clint Dempsey — 10 — Along with Howard, the sort of player you knew would make sure this game ended with three points. The fact that he nabbed three goals, too, is just a bonus.
Jozy Altidore — 7 — Pretty darn good night holding up the ball, and passed as well as ever, but did he drop a bit too deep too often? The answer is probably, “Who cares? They won 6-0, dude.”
Alejandro Bedoya (On 18′) — 6 — Typical high energy, space eating job in the middle of the park from the Union man.
Graham Zusi (On 58′) — 6 — Good late clearance preserved the shutout.
Tim Ream (On 70′) — 6 — Interesting to note that Arena went to him over Walker Zimmerman or Matt Besler.
U.S. can breathe easy after impressive World Cup qualifying win vs. Honduras
SAN JOSE, Calif. — The U.S. men’s national team got its World Cup qualifying campaign back on track with a 6-0 shellacking of Honduras on Friday night. Clint Dempsey led the way with a hat trick, while the U.S. also received goals from Sebastian Lletget, Michael Bradley and Christian Pulisic.Here are three thoughts on a massive performance from the U.S.:
- U.S. gets some relief after big win
This was a night when just about everything went right for Bruce Arena’s side. The U.S. scored early through Lletget in the fifth minute, and padded its lead with two more first-half goals from Bradley and Dempsey that were scored just five minutes apart. In the back, there were some shaky moments, but the shots that made their way to goalkeeper Tim Howard were usually right at him.The U.S. poured it on in the second half as Pulisic scored after just 13 seconds, Dempsey slotted home another in the 49th minute and then completed his hat trick with a gorgeous free kick five minutes later.As a result, all of the negativity surrounding the team was washed away, and the team’s World Cup prospects, which invited doubt after the first two games of the Hexagonal, now look much more encouraging. The win, even with Trinidad & Tobago’s victory over Panama, means the U.S. has caught up with the pack, level with Honduras and T&T, and ahead of both teams on goal difference. More importantly, the U.S. now finds itself just a point behind third-place Panama, which it plays Tuesday in Panama City.So what was the difference? A change in manager, at least in the short term, oftentimes provides an emotional boost, and that appeared to be the case here. Without question, the U.S. looked to be a more confident and cohesive side. Having Dempsey’s predatory instincts back in the lineup for the first time since last summer’s Copa America was certainly a help as well. The maturation of Pulisic, who in addition to his goal added two assists, was evident for all to see as well.Perhaps most importantly, this is still a proud group, one that had to stew over a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Costa Rica for four months. All of that pent-up frustration was taken out on the Catrachos.
- Dempsey still has it
Think of it this way: Three months ago it wasn’t even clear if Dempsey would be able to continue his career after an irregular heartbeat forced him to be shut down for the last four months of the 2016 MLS campaign. A week ago, after starting the first two games of the 2017 MLS season, Dempsey was expected to be nothing more than a substitute in these matches. Even when Bobby Wood was removed from the roster due to a back injury, there were plenty observers who thought Jordan Morris was the more natural fit to take Wood’s place. An ankle injury eventually forced Morris out of Friday’s match, but Dempsey’s inclusion in the lineup made complete sense. He had the experience, a longstanding partnership with Jozy Altidore and plenty of confidence from Arena.Even then, no one could have expected a performance like he delivered at Avaya Stadium. His only one previous hat trick in a U.S. uniform was on July 18, 2015, against lowly Cuba. The goals showed off his entire repertoire as well. The first was an authoritative finish with Honduran defender Henry Figueroa draped all over him, the second a clear breakaway in which he rounded the keeper to slot home and the last was a free kick hit with perfection.Now, Dempsey is clearly indispensable again, and his 55 career U.S. goals now leave him just two behind Landon Donovan’s record of 57. Of course, when Wood heals up, Arena will have something of a selection headache on his hands, but considering all of the injuries he’s had to deal with, that’s a problem he’ll be happy to have.
- 3. Arena’s attack-heavy lineup pays off
Say this for Arena: He has guts. Given that the U.S. entered the match rock bottom of the Hexagonal, the U.S. manager would have been forgiven for showing a more conservative lineup. But instead, Arena, mindful that Honduran counterpart Jorge Luis Pinto would play five at the back, opted to put as many attacking pieces on the field as possible. There was room in the side for both Lletget and Darlington Nagbe, as well as 18-year-old wunderkind Pulisic. It was perhaps telling as well that there was no place for the more defensive-minded Alejandro Bedoya. Arena even opted to put Jorge Villafana, making just his second international appearance for the U.S., in at left-back over the more experienced DaMarcus Beasley.All told, the moves worked a treat. Lletget cleaned up a rebound from Pulisic’s shot in the fifth minute. Bradley’s worm-burner put the U.S. up 2-0 in the 27th minute. But Dempsey, making his first start since last summer’s Copa America Centenario, scored the pick of the first-half bunch. Pulisic’s lofted ball found Dempsey in stride, and the Seattle Sounders forward held off a defender to lash his shot into the top corner.Even another injury wasn’t enough to throw the U.S. off its stride. Lletget was hauled down by Ever Alvarado in the 15th minute, a foul that saw the Honduran defender earn a yellow card. Lletget tried to carry on with a left ankle injury but was forced to make way in the 18th minute for Bedoya. Yet the U.S. continued with its attacking ways, and Bedoya put in a hardworking shift while assisting on Bradley’s goal as well.Honduras did respond, continually attacking Geoff Cameron’s side, and should have pulled a goal back just before halftime when substitute Erick Andino had a glorious chance, only for John Brooks to get the slightest of deflections.To the Americans’ credit, they kept up their attacking instincts in the second half. Pulisic scored from a terrific through ball from Altidore, who was involved and impressive all night. Dempsey then scored twice more to complete his hat trick.If there was one downside to the night, it was the injuries to Lletget and Brooks. But this was a night when the depth in the U.S. team came to the fore, and Arena and his charges will be confident they can do the same on Tuesday.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.
Three things to take away from USMNT 6-0 Honduras
The United States men’s national team pulled a Leicester City.
That’s a joke with truth wrapped around it, because the Yanks have had plenty of time and even a pair of friendlies to respond from the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann.But in their first serious match without their old coach, the U.S. looked a team renewed and unleashed. Now the Americans may find themselves back in an automatic World Cup qualifying spot with a win on Tuesday in Panama.Things change.
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and all of the USMNT players waited months and months to get the chance to answer their critics following a pair of embarrassing losses to open the final round of World Cup qualifying.Sure, having Clint Dempsey, Geoff Cameron, and Tim Howard back helped a whole lot, and the seasoning Christian Pulisic is getting at Borussia Dortmund is unquestionably good for an 18-year-old.
But there’s little doubt Michael Bradley and Co. were fired up to silence their critics. Whether they admit it or not, this is a bunch that was stung by those who said they failed their old coach.Most expected the U.S. to get a point or better against Honduras, but to do it the way they did is an unexpected bonus. A win in Panama on Tuesday would boost them into the Top Three.
Pulisic won’t be credited with an assist for his shot which rebounded to Sebastian Lletget for the opener, but he will walk away with his fourth international goal and two proper assists.One was an absurd scoop to Clint Dempsey’s chest, and the other was a long avenue that shouldn’t have existed. Still, Pulisic found that street and provided an absolutely dynamic force all over the park.There have been U.S. teens at big European clubs, and U.S. teens who’ve made impacts on the national team, but never both at the same time and never both at this level. Pulisic is for real, and finding his ceiling is an adventure we’re all undertaking with great enjoyment.
…But the legends sure helped
Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will go down as two of the most important players in United States men’s national team history.Actually, they may be duking it out for Nos. 1 and 2 when it’s all said and done.Dempsey’s hat trick was his career in a nutshell. The first saw him body off a defender while collecting a Pulisic pass off his chest, then lashing a shot with power despite said defender dragging him down.The second was a burst of speed to run onto Pulisic’s through ball and classic calm in the face of an onrushing keeper, holding onto the ball before sliding it home from an acute angle.The third was this free kick. A bit aided by goalkeeper Donis Escober, but such is life.
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