Going into the game Friday night, the US sat at the bottom of the Hex with a goose egg for points and am embarrassing -5 goal differential. At minimum, the USMNT had to win. Any chance to put a dent in that negative goal differential was a bonus. Leave it to a Croatian and a Texan to not only power the US to a win, but to erase that differential and then some.
Christian Pulisic put in a breakout performance with a goal and a pair of assists at the tender age of 18, while Clint Dempsey emphatically returned to the fold with a hat trick as the USA won 6 – 0 in San Jose, California.
Bay Area native Sebastian Lletget started the scoring in the 5th minute, tapping in a deflected shot from Pulisic for his first international goal. Unfortunately for him, his night was a short lived one as less than 10 minutes later he took a hard tackle from Ever Alvarado, who was yellow carded. Lletget had to be substituted for an ankle injury that puts into question a follow-up performance in Panama on Tuesday.
Dynamo forward Alberth Elis had a great chance to tie the match up 16 minutes in when he settled a cross from club teammate Romell Quioto around the penalty area. Elis turned center back John Brooks and got a clean shot off that Tim Howard saved easily. On second viewing it appears that Elis might not have expected the opening and rushed his shot. With another half second he may have been able to place the shot better and give it more power.
A tackle from Geoff Cameron in the 27′ set up a free kick for Honduras. Quioto put the ball on frame but it went right to Howard for a routine save. Less than a minute later, Alejandro Bedoya, in for the injured Lletget, passed to Michael Bradley who dribbled into the middle of the field and ripped a shot from just outside the box to double the US’ lead.
The US surged ahead for good when Pulisic sent an incredible chip over the defense where Dempsey shrugged off a defender inside the box to volley the ball into the back of the net in the 32nd minute. It was his first international goal since being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat last year.
Unfortunately for Dynamo fans, the half didn’t end well. While Quioto was on the ball, Jozy Altidore and Bedoya double teamed him. As he fell, he landed wrong and appeared to pop his shoulder out of the socket. He was immediately taken off the field for medical attention. It is highly unlikely that he will face off against Costa Rica on Tuesday and his future for Houston is up in the air.
Matt Jordan, General Manager of the Dynamo, told the Houston Chronicle that they are in contact with the medical team of Honduras and will make an announcement later.
Erick Andino, in for Quioto, had a wonderful chance to put his team back in the game right before the half but his point blank shot went just wide of the post. During stoppage, Andino whipped in a cross from the left to Elis that was an inch or two over the striker’s head.
A dozen seconds into the second half, Altidore sent a wonderful pass to the feet of Pulisic who made no mistake from inside the box to make the score 4 – 0. The Dortmund midfielder returned the favor three minutes later for his second assist on the night. A long diagonal throughball was perfectly weighted for an onrushing Deuce. The Texan went around the goalkeeper and slotted the ball into an empty net.
The final goal came in the 52′ when Dempsey completed his hat trick to put himself within two of Landon Donovan’s all-time record of 57 international goals. After Pulisic tried to dance around Maynor Figueroa and was fouled, Deuce stood over the ball. He curled the ball into the net that gave the goalkeeper, Donis Escobar, no chance.
Oscar “Boniek” Garcia came into the game at the half and had a solid 45 minutes but couldn’t quite help his team get on the scoresheet.
Elsewhere in CONCACAF, Dynamo center back Adolfo Machado started and played 75 minutes for Panama as they lost 1 – 0 to Trinidad & Tobago at the historic Hasely Crawford Stadium. Despite putting in the better play, Panama gave up a goal to Minnesota United striker Kevin Molino in the 37th minute.
Mexico defeated Costa Rica at the Azteca 2 – 0 off goals from Chicarito and Rafa Marquez (yup…he is still playing despite being 89 years old).
Going into the 4th Match Day on Tuesday, Mexico leads the pack with 7 points, with the Ticos a sole point behind them. Panama holds onto the third spot with 4 points while the rest are all tied up on 3. The US’ huge win overturns their disastrous start to the Hex and puts them in the playoff spot with a +1 goal differential. Whomever finishes 4th will have a home and away series against an Asian side (which as of this writing would be the winner of Australia v Uzbekistan).