World Cup Qualifying recap: USMNT 4–0 Trinidad and Tobago

Led by Hershey, PA’s, own Christian Pulisic, the US ran out 4–0 winners over Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night, in the process winning Group C and punching their ticket for the Hex. Jozy Altidore scored a brace, with Sacha Kljestan and Paul Arriola getting the others. Pulisic had an assist for Altidore’s second, but that undersells his influence on the match.

First half

The surprises began with the teamsheets, with Pulisic handed his first WCQ start, and making him the youngest American male ever to do so, breaking Landon Donovan’s previous record. Sacha Kljestan also started, as did Omar Gonzalez, making a return after months out of the picture.

Pulisic was the US’s danger man in the early going, too, making things happen with each touch, and earning the US’s first shot on goal after a feed on the break from Kljestan. In truth, though, Trinidad and Tobago proved a match for the US in the first fifteen minutes, earning their first shot on goal moments before the US’s. Neither team was generating much. Though, off a long throw from Geoff Cameron, Kljestan nearly had the first goal, but couldn’t get his hips around and the shot sailed high.

In the 31st, Pulisic nearly broke the deadlock in spectacular style. Jozy Altidore broke through up the right side and sent a cross through the six yard box. Bobby Wood dove but couldn’t connect. Pulisic followed up, trying to beat the onrushing keeper at his near post. The shot beat the keeper but smacked the post, pinged across goal, hit the other post, rebounded back and out!

Kljestan would get the goal for the US, at the very end of the half. In the 44th, neat interplay between Kljestan and Fabian Johnson found Pulisic with the ball in the box on the US left. His attempted centering pass for Altidore was cut out, but the clearance hit Kljestan in the body, and fell to him near the penalty spot. He made no mistake.

The US tried to press their advantage, but ran out of time before the half.

Second half

The second half began much like the first, with both teams fairly even, but the US making the more dangerous chances, primarily through the work of Pulisic. Every time he got on the ball, good things happened. He played in teammates for shots and sent in dangerous crosses, ably supported by the work of Altidore up top and Kljestan in midfield.

But Altidore would get the second US goal, with Pulisic just playing the decoy. In the 59th, Johnson broke up the left side, then played into Altidore in the center. Altidore let the ball roll across his body, then tipped the ball past the defender, before dragging his shot back across his body and into the corner of the net, with the keeper stranded.

In the 63rd, Pulisic and Altidore combined to break the game open. After a neat long-range one-two with Kljestan, Pulisic broke into the Trinidad box, then sent a delicious pass to the back post. Altidore ghosted in behind the defense and finished on the slide for 3–0.

In the 71st, Pulisic nearly had the goal his play deserved. Jumping a passing lane, he led a break out of center midfield before laying the ball off. It recycled through Kljestan, who found Altidore on the left side of the Trinidad box. Altidore’s first-time pass hit Pulisic in stride, but his shot was parried away by the keeper. The ball fell to substitute Paul Arriola, however, who buried it for the US fourth.

After that, the game settled down. Trinidad and Tobago began to find a few seams in the US defense, but failed to beat Tim Howard in goal. Pulisic nearly added another assist in stoppage time, finding Altidore for a one-on-one breakaway, but Altidore’s chip sailed high, and the US had to be satisfied with four.

US verdict

Pulisic! Oh, man, it’s going to be tough to hold back the hype after these last two performances. Not only did Pulisic get another assist, he was the best player on the field for long stretches, if not the whole game. He was at the center, or at least directly involved, in nearly every good US move. But he never forgot his defensive duties, tracking back and working hard in tandem with Johnson on the left side throughout the game. He has a combination of technique, guile, quickness, and intelligence that I simply have never seen in a US player this young.

Altidore! Jozy looks back to his best. He entered beast mode a couple of times, scored twice, and generally did everything you want from a center striker. Long may it continue, and long may his hamstrings hold.

Kljestan! While the calls for Kljestan’s return to the USMNT have been going on for a long time, it’s fair to say that this is the first time that Kljestan has really taken his chance. He’s playing with a poise, confidence, and composure that he has rarely shown for the NT, as if he finally knows exactly who he is and what he can do. He deserves more minutes, and he should get them after tonight’s performance.

Defense! The defense was largely untroubled, not giving up real chances until the 80th minute or so, after gaining a four-goal lead. It was midly frustrating to see Geoff Cameron played at right back, but with DeAndre Yedlin suspended, it was good to have him on the field, especially when both Gonzalez and Steve Birnbaum are in good form.

Final thoughts

After two thumping wins, it can be easy to forget that not so long ago, the US was in near-crisis mode after losing to Guatemala, back in March. But the emergence of Christian Pulisic, reemergence of Sacha Kljestan, return from injury of Jozy Altidore, and continued good play from folks like Bobby Wood, et al, does give the US a lot to feel good about. Considering that low, the US could not have finished the group stage of World Cup 2018 qualifying any better.

12-Tim Howard; 20-Geoff Cameron, 21-Steve Birnbaum, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 23-Fabian Johnson; 11-Alejandro Bedoya (14-Paul Arriola, 66), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 16-Sacha Kljestan (13-Caleb Stanko, 72), 10-Christian Pulisic; 7-Bobby Wood (8-Jordan Morris, 60), 17-Jozy Altidore
Subs not used: 1-Brad Guzan, 22-Ethan Horvath, 2-Kellyn Acosta, 5-Michael Orozco, 6-Darlington Nagbe, 9-Rubio Rubin, 15-Kyle Beckerman, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 19-Graham Zusi
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

Trinidad and Tobago
1-Marvin Phillip; 2-Aubrey David, 12-Carlyle Mitchell, 6-Radanfah Abu Bakr, 17-Mekeil Williams; 3-Joevin Jones, 8-Khaleem Hyland, 10-Kevin Molino, 14-Andre Boucaud (19-Kevan George, 76), 16-Levi Garcia (23-Jomal Williams, 57); 9-Kenwyne Jones (capt.) (11-Shahdon Winchester, 69)
Subs not used: 21-Adrian Foncette, 22-Greg Ranjitsingh, 5-Daneil Cyrus, 7-Hughtun Hector, 13-Cordell Cato, 15-Neveal Hackshaw, 18-Yohance Marshall, 20-Trevin Caesar
Head coach: Stephen Hart

Stats Summary (USA / TRI)
Shots: 17 / 14
Shots on Goal: 10 / 5
Saves: 5 / 6
Corner Kicks: 3 / 2
Fouls: 8 / 11
Offside: 4 / 1

Scoring Summary
USA – Sacha Kljestan 44th minute
USA – Jozy Altidore (Fabian Johnson) 59
USA – Jozy Altidore (Christian Pulisic) 62
USA – Paul Arriola 71

Misconduct Summary
TRI – Mekeil Williams (caution) 25th minute
TRI – Carlyle Mitchell (caution) 52
TRI – Jomal Williams (caution) 62

Referee: Ricardo Montero Araya (CRC)
Assistant Referee 1: Octavio Jara Carballo (CRC)
Assistant Referee 2: Juan Carlos Mora Araya (CRC)
4th Official: Walter Quesada Cordero (CRC)


  1. The movement, passing, creativity!!! I know it’s T&T but… Pulisic!! He’s real. I don’t care about being scared to overhype. He’s real dammit.

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    The double edged sword of your best National Team player being a teenager.
    At once a good problem to have and a significant problem you have.

    • It’s significant in the short term, but potentially paradigm-shifting in the long term. If his trajectory continues, he can be the role model for the youth players that would otherwise abandon the sport or choose ineffective paths in their development.

  3. Jeremy, I didn’t see the match. Any thoughts on how the defense looked in front of Howard vs Guzan?

    • I don’t know about comparing them, but they were quite composed. That may say more about the players than the keeper, though. All four are bright, and Johnson was rarely pressured.

    It would seem there is nothing to stop the hype train. Let’s all just jump aboard and enjoy the ride.

  5. Who on the USMNT wore #10 before Pulisic took it?

  6. Got to give Andrew Wenger some props. Remember last year when we were all amazed how he managed to hit both posts with one shot? I’ve seen it happen several times since including Pulisic last night.

  7. To me this locks Pulisic onto the left for a long time coming. That means you Fabian Johnson are stuck at LB now the two of you need to get on the same page and the US will have a great left side. Kljestan worked well with Pulisic and Johnson, but not so much with Bradley. Bedoya on the right seemed to be traveling central to much. Cameron is a much stronger right back than Yedlin has been for the national team. I wonder if you keep Cameron on the right and pair Besler and Brooks in the center with Johnson on the left if that isn’t the strongest defensive line. The question I have and didn’t think I would be asking this, but is Bradley’s position safe anymore he hasn’t been at his best and I wonder if someone can take over his spot. Now I haven’t seen it yet but what about another one of these young players I’ve heard a lot about Hyndman I believe is he ready to give a shot.

    • I like cameron, omar, brooks, Johnson across the back- so long as cameron stops trying to dribble.
      …and if we aren’t going 4-3-3…I agree #10 is best served in the LM role. Would much rather see him as a left winger and Johnson as the left mid but either way…the two of them on the left is daunting and exciting.
      I guess Sacha just cemented Nagbe to the best american player to not play for his national team. What a shame. I’d take Nagbe in the 8 over Bradley every time.
      Was it me or was Alejandro quite sloppy the last two games? MLS effect already…. ZINGER.

      • MLS effect in general, or the Crevalle effect specifically?

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Good one. Bedoya was quite untidy last night and the other game IMO too.

      • Nagbe over Bradley? The plan is to win a lot of games 4-3 I’m guessing?
        I see Nagbe as a Barnetta or a Nogeria. Good, skilled players, but if you don’t have a designated defensive midfielder behind them the back 4 is in for a long, long day.

      • Jones is the 6…. I guess.

      • Maybe, but it is also kind of “his preseason” right now too.
        Also, the good thing about a player like Bedoya is even when he is off his game on the ball, his work rate on defense is still there.

      • I had the same thought. He was rough in the attack, but he was really getting involved in defense and read things well.

    • I’m not sure who could play a strictly defensive midfielder for us better than Bradley over the next year.
      Beckerman is awful against anything other than minnows. Jones helter skelter positioning makes Edu look like Carroll. Bedoya needs someone behind him. Kitchen, Danny Williams, Hyndman, Acosta are waiting in the wings but have a long way to go. We’ll see how Hyndman does this year about getting time in the Premier League.
      Bradley certainly had a sub par game last night, but when we play him as the number 6 we have had a lot of success the past few months. He doesn’t do well under pressure and struggles when you ask him to be the creative presence or ask him to singlehandedly boss the center of the field, but he breaks up a lot of plays and switches the field well.
      We’re something like 7-2-0 (6 of those being shutouts) with Bradley playing as a lone defensive midfielder.

      • Out of the players you mentioned I think only Kitchen and Acosta could play the #6 for the US.
        Williams is similar to Jones (and Creavalle) in that he tends to chase the ball leading to him being pulled out of position all too often and Hyndman is more of a #8 connector-type like Nogs was.
        If I had to pick someone other then Bradley for a game tomorrow, Cameron would be my #6.

      • I kind of had the same feeling about Williams and Hyndman, but haven’t seen enough of them to fully understand their games.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *