Aaron Long celebrates his goal with Walker Zimmerman. (David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)
CLEVELAND – The U.S. men’s national team could have used a result like this or even a win in 2017 during World Cup qualifying.
The Americans recorded their largest margin of victory against Trinidad & Tobago with a 6-0 victory befgroup D with a superior goal difference to Panama (2-0-0, 6), which defeated Guyana 4-2 in the day’s earlier game.
Group D action will conclude at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City on Wednesday with the USA and Panama going head to head for first place in the final group standings. Kickoff for USA-Panama is set for 9 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast on FS1 and UniMas.
Both teams had near misses in the opening stages of the match with the USA’s Tyler Boyd putting a difficult shot from the corner of the six just wide and Trinidad’s Alvin Jones ripping a free kick just over the bar in an early show of intent from the sides.
Steffen was forced into a strong save inside the first 10 minutes as Soca Warriors captain Khaleem Hyland blasted a loose ball through a U.S. defenders legs but right at Steffen, who punched it clear.
The U.S. took things up a notch beginning in the 34th minute when some good possession resulting in Weston McKennie chipping to Zardes alone on the back post. Zardes headed the ball across the face of goal looking for Arriola, but keeper Marvin Phillip smothered the ball at the D.C. United players’s feet.
After a few more good spells of possession and half chances, Long provided the breakthrough with a headed goal in the 41st minute to give the U.S. a 1-0 halftime lead.
Two opportunities for Boyd just before the hour struck bookended a small fracas as the USA pushed to take firm control of the game and passions flared. That five minutes marked the point that the U.S. ascended into the drivers seat as the Americans tallied four goals in 12 minutes between the 66th and 78th minutes.
Zardes bagged the first two of the sequence in the 66th and 69th minutes before Pulisic and Arriola added to the margin in the 73rd and 78th minutes, respectively. Long, whose opening goal was the first of his MNT career, then capped off the night with a finally tally as the curtain came down in the 90th minute.