World Cup Qualifying recap: USMNT 6-0 Honduras

Photo: Peter Andrews

The United States resumed World Cup qualifying in style on Friday night, demolishing a hapless Honduras side 6-0 on a drizzly night at San Jose’s Avaya Stadium.

In their first competitive match under Bruce Arena’s leadership, the US were lethal on the attack. Clint Dempsey returned from a heart condition to notch a hat trick in the first 54 minutes, while Sebastian Lletget, Michael Bradley, and Christian Pulisic added goals. Pulisic, in particular, dominated the match with his tremendous vision and creativity.

After a pair of catastrophic qualifiers in November that earned Jurgen Klinsmann the sack, the Americans reset their goal difference in the Hexagonal to +1, giving their march to Russia new life before Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

Buoyed by a raucous San Jose crowd, the United States buzzed around the park for the first five minutes and were duly rewarded with the opening goal. A delicate touch from Jozy Altidore sent Christian Pulisic in on the Honduras keeper. Donis Escober got just enough of a touch to push the ball wide, but Sebastian Lletget waited at the far post. After such an intelligent run, the LA Galaxy man applied a cool finish from close range to send the team in red into raptures.

Unfortunately for the San Francisco native, Lletget’s evening was too brief. After earning a yellow card on a bad foul by Ever Alvarado, the goal-scorer could not continue. Philadelphia Union captain Alejandro Bedoya came off the bench in the 18th minute to replace him.

The Americans kept the party going with a sumptuous individual goal from Michael Bradley. The captain, afforded space by the Honduras backline, dribbled along the top of the 18 before unleashing a ferocious shot back across his body. The keeper, stranded, could only watch as the ball hit the back of the net.

Barely minutes later, old and new combined to make it 3-0. Charging downfield, Pulisic lofted an outrageous pass to Clint Dempsey, who controlled with his chest. Making his return to the national team from a dangerous heart condition, the Texan fended off pressure to blast an absolute rocket into the net. Just over a third of the way into the match, the United States had turned this qualifier into a rout.

Honduras had their best chance at 45 minutes, when a cross found substitute Erick Andino at the near post. But he somehow missed from two yards out. It was that kind of half for the rejuvenated United States.

Apparently unsatisfied with a three-goal advantage, the United States came out of the break aiming to destroy the visiting Catrachos. Just 13 seconds into the match, Altidore put Pulisic in on goal, and the Dortmund phenom made no mistake with his cool finish.

Just minutes later, the lead was 5. Pulisic put a world-class ball between two defenders where Dempsey could run onto it. He toyed with the hapless Escober, rounding the keeper before putting his second goal of the night into the net. It was Pulisic’s second assist of the night.

By the 54th minute, Dempsey earned his hat trick. On a free kick, the Sounders man fired a brilliant shot over the wall and past Escober, who by now wished the match was long over. It was vintage stuff from the American talisman, who is enjoying his soccer after a long layoff at the end of last season.

The most concerning moment for the Americans came when John Brooks, stellar all evening on the back line, exited the match on a stretcher. Tim Ream replaced him in the 70th minute.

Jozy Altidore nearly made it a touchdown in the 87th minute, after a long sequence between he and Dempsey saw Altidore in on goal. Escober, however, made his sharpest save of the match, getting big to deny the shot at close range.

Tim Howard made his best save of the match on a low free kick in stoppage time, earning serenades of “Timmy Howard” from the fans.

The United States, brimming with confidence, held the Catrachos at arms length for the remainder of the match, as the drizzle continued in San Jose and the Outlaws found their full voice. After a winter full of angst, pure happiness filtered through the U.S. supporters on the first Friday of spring.

The United States finished the match in 4th place in the Hex after three matches. Their next match is in Panama City, against Panama. (That last piece of information may have been unnecessary.) Kickoff is at 10 p.m. Eastern.

Three points

  • Swaggering start: In Costa Rica in November, the Americans were a beaten side long before the final whistle. Under new management, the team came out ready to play, dominating the first five minutes and scoring a deserved early goal.
  • Deuce is back: Many wondered whether Clint Dempsey would ever play for the United States again, and there were questions about his fitness even entering the match tonight. He answered those questions with a lively performance. Each of his goals were impressive in different ways, with the free kick the class of the bunch.
  • Pulisic!: The kid is for real, there’s no longer any question about it. The youngster was, for my money, the best player on the pitch, brimming with creativity and confidence. He took his goal well and created two more.

United States
Tim Howard, Jorge Villafana, Omar Gonzalez, John Brooks (Tim Ream 69′), Geoff Cameron (Graham Zusi 59′), Darlington Nagbe, Michael Bradley (c), Sebastian Lletget (Alejandro Bedoya 18′), Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore
Unused Subs: David Bingham, Nick Rimando, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley, Kellyn Acosts, Sacha Kljestan, Chris Wondolowski, Walker Zimmerman, Dax McCarty

Donis Escober; Emilio Izaguirre (Boniek Garcia 46′), Maynor Figueroa (c), Henry Figueroa, Ever Alvarado, Brayan Beckeles; Jorge Claros, Roger Espinoza; Romell Quioto (Erick Andino 43′), Alberth Elis, Andy Najar (Oliver Morazan 61′)
Unused subs: Luis Lopez, Ricardo Canales, Felix Crisianto, Allans Vargas, Cesar Oseguera,, Mario Martinez, Carlos Disuca, Anthony Lozano, Eddie Hernandez

Scoring Summary
USA: Sebastian Lletget — 5′
USA: Michael Bradley — 27′ (Alejandro Bedoya)
USA: Clint Dempsey — 32′ (Christian Pulisic)
USA: Christian Pulisic — 46′ (Jozy Altidore)
USA: Clint Dempsey — 49′ (Christian Pulisic)
USA: Clint Dempsey — 54′

Disciplinary Summary
HON:  Ever Alvarado — 12′ (Yellow)
USA:  Geoff Cameron — 25′ (Yellow)


  1. el Pachyderm says:

    Pulisic and Nagbe. Clint. Jozy. Even Michael. Quality all around tonight. Harbinger of things to come maybe.

  2. Dan c (formerly of 103) says:

    Um, so all I can really say is that Pulisic is so…. so…… dreamy!!!

  3. John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

    Great game…onto the next. Lot of work still.

  4. Pragmatist says:

    Same group as Klinnsmann. So, is it JK or Arena? Or just an anomaly?
    Either way, just happy for the win.

  5. Old Soccer Coach says:

    At 1:00 am Easter time overtly pointing out that in an international to be played in Panama City one is playing Panama is okay. At that hour some brains are less sharp, like mine.
    To speak to Pragmatist’s good question above, a coach from within the same national culture always has an advantage over one from outside it, in terms of the intangible reading of his players. Sometimes that is not what a side needs. And that is not the only thing Arena brought. But in the ability to have the side play relaxed, happy, successful football, Arena has the advantage over any non- American.
    It may have been by necessity, but I liked the back four all having something of the central defender in them and a little less of the flank midfielder than is conventional. It reduces the need for constantly heroic play from the center backs, takes the pressure off a bit.
    And it seems the opposition could not handle the US central channel midfielders very well.
    That lineup would do less well against a side that were especially strong down the spine, either through tactical formation or personnel.
    They were fun to watch. I had thought to go to bed at halftime, but stayed up instead.

  6. Who else makes that lob tap where Pulisic sets up Deuce’s welcome back goal?
    He was in on 4 of our six scores! And he’s our new 10.
    Yet his most impressive moment for me may have been his outburst at the official who made a bad out of bounds call (“ARE YOU BLIND?!,” shouted #10) right in front of him, stealing a breakaway. He was too good for the officiating and he has the scowl and fight of Clint – at 18!

    • That had the makings of another goal for the team, too.

      • And he KNEW it – royally & deservedly pissed! He had played it perfectly along the touchline and had a step on the last defender in a footrace. When was the last time we saw . . . ?

    • Pragmatist says:

      According to the Fox Soccer radio guys, that ref (on the sideline) is the older brother of a Honduran player. If that’s accurate, it seems a bit shady…

      • Replays showed it really wasn’t close. A relative can officiate?? Then does anyone know the youth team of Barron Trump?

      • Section 114 (former) says:

        The linesman and the referee are brothers, not a player in the game. Sorry to ruin the conspiracy theory.

      • Pragmatist says:

        Had a feeling I head that wrong. But I prefer my InfoWars version. :p

      • I wonder if his view was blocked by the Pulisic’s body… or maybe he just couldn’t believe his eyes. 🙂
        “I don’t believe what I just saw. Not possible.” Raises flag.

  7. El P – Your list of quality performers was 10 short: Howard, Lettget, Cameron, Brooks, Gonzalez, Villafana, Bedoya, Zusi, Shea, Arena. There wasn’t a dog on the pitch all night. There were mistakes, but in each case someone stepped up to bail them out – That’s a big deal, as there will always be mistakes.Having someone in the right place and hustling to do the right thing to negate them was the difference last night. I’d like to see a few less fouls.They were hustle fouls, not lazy fouls but quality
    teams will make you pay.

  8. Team played like being reborn. It played like a real team that was tremendous fun to watch. Thank God Klinsmann is gone; should have happened much sooner. He never got the best out of any of the players and lacked tactical vision.

  9. We can finally say that Pulisic has arrived, and it’s not too early, and he’s not too young, and we’re not crushing him with the weight of our expectations. He’s world-class already, and if he stopped developing NOW, he’d be our team’s savior. And he’s not gonna stop developing. Damn I am so glad I get to see this kid play for the next 15 years.

  10. Pulisic is the man. Kid is that good. Believe it. That is all.
    Ok one more thing – just stop all the “Pulisic is better than Donovan was at that age…” CRAP. Who cares?!? Let the kid have fun and keep killing it. Enjoy the ride 🙂

  11. Joel Pterosaur says:

    What a delight to see a team I support win something. Between the terrible USMNT up to this point and the recent USWNT struggles and obviously the Union…feels like a long wait for positives. More than made up for the ridiculous start time.

    Everyone has been freaking out about Pulisic. Please go watch Dortmund on a weekly basis. Seriously, he does what he did last night on a regular basis…honestly I kinda felt he didn’t even get into full gear last night.

    That said there are negatives from last night. The back line looked shaky, hopefully more time together will work it out. It felt like Bradley really needed an midfielder in between him and Pulsic, there was a lot of Bradley->CB->Howard->Long ball happening. Credit the team for making it work, but against a better team, it might cause problems.

    Anyways, that enough negatives…Enjoying the win and hopefully more positives for next game!

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