There was no stopping Clint Dempsey and the USA Friday night. (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)
SAN JOSE, Calif. — For one game at least, Bruce Arena made the U.S. national team great again.
In his first game returning as head coach, Arena directed the USA to a sterling and stunning 6-0 trouncing of Honduras in a vital World Cup qualifying match at Avaya Stadium Friday night.
It was the largest margin of victory by the USA in a hexagonal match as it had recorded 3-0 results a few times.
Clint Dempsey, in his first game back from a heart ailment, led the way with a hat-trick. Sebastian Lletget, Michael Bradley and Christian Pulisic also found the net for the surging Americans (1-2-0, 3 points), who moved from last to fourth place in the CONCACAF hexagonal.
Wearing No. 10, the 18-year-old Pulisic was the maestro who pulled the strings at midfield for the U.S. before a crowd of 17,729.
“It felt great,” Dempsey said. “We were in a must-win situation. The whole team came out and played really well tonight. We pressed the game and we took our chances and put in a solid performance and got threee points that we needed.
“We had our backs against the wall. We had to stick together, we had to study tape, we had to make sure we came out here and gave our best performance because we want to qualify for the World Cup. It’s a huge three points, but the job’s not done. We’ve got to keep working together, keep sticking together and try to try to get as many points as we can so we can qualify.”
The U.S.’s next challenge will be in Panama City against Panama Tuesday night.
“Panama is another good team, a good CONCACAF team,” Pulisic said. “We’re just going to have to come out and we’re just going to have to come out with the same intensity and fire that we did today. If we do that, I think we shouldn’t have a problem.”
Goalkeeper Tim Howard recorded the shutout in his first international since suffering an injury against Mexico in a qualifying loss Nov. 11. He made four saves, including one in the first minute of stoppage time on Maynor Figueroa to preserve the clean sheet.
Arena had taken over for the fired Jurgen Klinsmann in November after the USA stumbled to a pair of losses in its first two hexagonal losses — a 2-1 defeat to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio and a devastating 4-0 shellacking by Costa Rica in another San Jose in Costa Rica.
The Franklin Square, N.Y. native’s charge was simple and direct: get the U.S. to the World Cup anyway he could. He certainly got off on the right foot Friday night.
In fact, the Americans could not have asked for a better start as Sebastian Lletget, making his first WCQ start, lifted the hosts to a 1-0 advantage. During a push toward the goal, Christian Pulisic lost the ball on the left side, regained it and sent a low cross to the far post to an unmarked Lletget. The LA Galaxy midfielder had an easy tap-in for his first goal.
“We came out here needing three points for sure,” Pulisic said. “We started very strongly, just never held back. It was really good to get a strong result.”
Lletget, however, did not finish out the half as he left with a left ankle injury after a rough tackle by Ever Alvarado in the 16th minute. Alejandro Bedoya replaced him two minutes later.
The U.S. did not miss a beat as Bradley, the U.S. captain, found some room near a couple of yards from the penalty arc and unleashed a 24-yard rocket into the lower right corner past goalkeeper Donis Escober.
Dempsey celebrated his return to the national team after a heart ailment sidelined last year by connecting for his 53rd international goal. Pulisic found a charging Dempsey and the Seattle Sounders striker powered a shot from the left side of the penalty area for a 3-0 lead.
The fans barely got back into their seats in time for the second half kickoff when Pulisic struck only 15 seconds after the whistle from the right side of the area for a four-goal bulge.
Only four minutes later, Pulisic set up Dempsey, who fired home from 10 yards out on the right side for a stunning 5-0 margin in the 49th minute.
On a dime!📍 Christian Pulisic sends a perfectly-weighted ball to Clint Dempsey who does the rest for his second goal of #USAvHON.
تم نشره بواسطة U.S. Soccer في 24 مارس، 2017
But Dempsey wasn’t finished finishing off the Hondurans as he drilled a 22-yard free kick into the far left corner to complete his hat-trick and his 55th career international goal in the 59th minute.
The 🍒 on top! Because everything is better in threes.Clint Dempsey completes his second #USMNT hat trick on this world-class free kick.
تم نشره بواسطة U.S. Soccer في 24 مارس، 2017
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA – Sebastian Lletget 5th minute
USA – Michael Bradley (Alejandro Bedoya) 27
USA – Clint Dempsey (Christian Pulisic) 32
USA – Christian Pulisic (Jozy Altidore) 46
USA – Clint Dempsey (Christian Pulisic) 49
USA – Clint Dempsey 54
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-Jorge Villafaña, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 6-John Brooks (14-Tim Ream, 70), 20-Geoff Cameron (19-Graham Zusi, 59); 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 9-Sebastian Lletget (11-Alejandro Bedoya, 18), 10-Christian Pulisic, 15-Darlington Nagbe; 8-Clint Dempsey, 17-Jozy Altidore
Subs not used: 12-David Bingham, 22-Nick Rimando; 5-Matt Besler, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 21-Walker Zimmerman; 13-Kellyn Acosta, 16-Sacha Kljestan, 23-Dax McCarty; 18-Chris Wondolowski
Head coach: Bruce Arena
HON : 22-Donis Escober; 7-Emilio Izaguirre (14-Boniek Garcia, 46), 3-Maynor Figueroa (capt.), 4-Henry Figueroa, 5-Ever Alvarado, 21-Brayan Beckeles; 20-Jorge Claros, 15-Roger Espinoza; 12-Romell Quioto (11-Erick Andino, 43) 19-Alberth Elis, 17-Andy Najar (8-Oliver Morazan, 61)
Subs not used: 1-Luis Lopez, 18-Ricardo Canales, 2-Felix Crisianto, 6-Allans Vargas, 23-Cesar Oseguera; 10-Mario Martinez, 16-Carlos Disuca, 9-Anthony Lozano, 13-Eddie Hernandez
Head coach: Jorge Luis Pinto
Stats Summary: USA / HON
Shots: 9 / 11
Shots on Goal: 8 / 4
Saves: 4 / 2
Corner Kicks: 0 / 7
Fouls: 15 / 8
Offside: 2 / 2
HON – Ever Alvarado (caution) 15th minute
USA – Geoff Cameron (caution) 25
Referee: Walter Lopez (GUA)
Assistant Referee 1: Gerson Lopez (GUA)
Assistant Referee 2: Hermenerito Leal (GUA)
4th Official: Oscar Reyna (GUA)
Budweiser Man of the Match: Clint Dempsey