USMNT

World Cup Qualifying recap: USMNT 2–0 Trinidad & Tobago

The U.S. downed Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday night, getting a vital win in their march toward qualification for Russia. Christian Pulisic, 18-year-old wunderkind phenom, scored both goals, leading some to wonder what we’ve all done to deserve such nice things.

First half

Bruce Arena made one change to his lineup from last week’s tuneup friendly versus Venezuela, replacing Bobby Wood with Jozy Altidore. The game opened in a similar vein, too, with the U.S. pushing the play while T&T was content to sit back. It took less than two minutes for Christian Pulisic to suffer a professional foul in the center circle. However, after the first few minutes, the game settled into a stasis with the U.S. ceding possession more than expected.

The pressure built and built, though, with the U.S. turning the screw, getting two hard shots on goal in the 25th minute. but T&T had a chance in the 33rd, with a cross from the U.S. right finding Kenwyne Jones onside. Luckily for the U.S., his header slammed back off the crossbar. A minute later, Altidore put a header of his own over the opposite goal.

The chances began to flow at both ends of the field. The U.S. had more of them, but a half that could easily have seen multiple goals ended scoreless.

Second half

The second half started in the same way as the first ended, with the U.S. probing, probing. And the breakthrough finally came in the 52nd minute. Darlington Nagbe drove at the T&T defense, eventually dragging the ball back to DeAndre Yedlin following his run into the box. Yedlin arrowed a cross into the six and Pulisic poked it home on the slide. This kid, I tell ya.

T&T nearly had the equalizer immediately from the kick-off, but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside. Not that it would have mattered, as ten minutes later a little more Hershey magic got the U.S. a second. Pulisic carried the ball through midfield then pushed it wide. He continued his run as Yedlin played the ball central to Altidore. Altidore sent a one-time ball ahead to Pulisic, breaking behind the defense. It looked like Fabian Johnson had a tap-in at the back post if Pulisic chose to square, but instead he shot for the near post from ten yards out on the right of the goal, sneaking the ball in past the flailing leg of the T&T keeper.

The game was basically over, then. T&T continued to threaten, off and on, coming close but never taking their chance. In the 77th, substitute Kellyn Acosta laced a 30-yard free kick from the left side toward the top corner, drawing a save. In the 84th, another substitute, Bobby Wood, knocked a shot off the left post.

No more goals arrived, though, and the U.S. had the win it needed.

U.S. verdict

What more is there to say? While Pulisic wasn’t quite as dominant a force in this one as he was versus Venezuela, here he scored two incredibly important goals. The first showed a rare intelligence of movement, and the second a precision of finish, that U.S. fans simply have never seen in someone so young. He doesn’t have to be the American Messi to end up as the greatest U.S. player of all time. He just needs to keep being himself. He’s already the best U.S. player currently.

Other than Pulisic, the U.S. verdict is simple: they took too long to get really engaged. The first half was a bit of a waste, and the improved energy and commitment they showed in the second half carried them to victory, buoyed by Pulisic’s cutting edge. The defense looked quite good overall, though both Yedlin and Jorge Villafana showed some raw edges in their 1-v-1 defending that could easily cost the U.S. goals in Mexico on Sunday.

Final thoughts

And there’s the rub—this was the easy game. Sunday, in Mexico City, will be a whole other kettle of fish. Luckily, with this win, the pressure is reduced significantly. The U.S. doesn’t need a result in Mexico to stay on course for automatic qualification. Obviously, they will go hell-for-leather to get one, but that’s just what playing your rival requires.

For now, though, let us bask in the glow that is Christian Pulisic, and wonder optimistically what he might accomplish on the biggest stage yet: Azteca.

8 Comments

  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Who will catch Landon first, Dempsey or Pulisic?
    .
    Pretty embarrassing game for Bedoya. He fell down untouched before his first touch on the ball and then picked up an unnecessary yellow.
    .
    Quick correction on your Final thoughts, the game in Mexico City is Sunday, not Monday.

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    RE: PULISIC.
    .
    Amazing I actually think the attack into box, quick stop, fancy footwork to get it on right foot and ROCKET he put off near post at an audacious angle was he most amazing thing he did… all that in a split second.
    .
    Otherwise, he’s just faster and playing at a different time signature than every other player on the field.
    .
    I rewound the picture a few times and the goalies expression after was priceless… almost like’ are you kidding me.’
    .
    .
    Here is a player so good on the ball he demands a defender to give him space because the defender has no choice but to do so…
    .
    I love Clint Dempsey, but my man has lost a step. He was never the most fleet of foot, but at altitude it was pretty obvious at least to me.

    • I was surprised by how poorly Dempsey played last night. He should have thanked Arena for taking him out of that match, rather than arguing with the coach about it. Hope he bounces back.

  3. Section 114 (Former) says:

    Quick correction, game at Azteca is SUNDAY. They moved it up to allow Mexico to head to Confederations Cup.

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