Paul Arriola, pictured in a December friendly, scored a pair of first-half goals. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
ORLANDO – The U.S. men’s national team made quick work of Trinidad & Tobago, sprinting to a four-goal halftime advantage en route to a 7-0 victory in its first international match of what is expected to be a busy year, at Exploria Stadium Sunday night.
Paul Arriola, Jesus Ferreira and Jonathan Lewis, a former New York City FC player, led the assault with two goals apiece. Ferreira also added a hat-trick of assists and was named man of the match. Ferreira, Lewis and Miles Robinson scored their first goals for the USA.
To be fair, the Soca Warriors hadn’t played since 2019 and fielded considerably less than a full lineup.
The USA also did not have a full team as well as the cream of its crop was in Europe, performing with their respective clubs.
That gave an opportunity to a young bunch of Major League Soccer players to make an impression on head coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff.
“What I really liked from the guys was the focus and intensity,” Berhalter said. “”We know it wasn’t a World Cup qualifying team in what they had available.
“Overall it’s very difficult to pick out a player that didn’t play well from the starting 11 … Pleased with the guys, pleased with the effort of the group.”
Goalkeeper Matt Turner, who rarely touched the ball, was credited with the clean sheet, though he had to make a diving save to his right on Alvin Jones’ penalty kick in the 66th minute to keep the visitors off the board.
The Americans outshot T&T, 19-2.
Lewis, who competes for the Colorado Rapids, gave the Americans all the scoring they needed with the match less than two minutes old. With goalkeeper Adrian Foncette being coaxed out of the net, Lewis had an easy time slotting the ball home from the penalty spot off a Ferreira assist. Seven minutes later, Ferreira got into the act, putting home a Sam Vines feed from the left wing from the goal box and the rout was on.
The USMNT was relentless, keeping the ball for huge periods of time in the visitors’ end. Arriola netted his two goals within a 19-minute span in the 22nd and 41st minutes for a 4-0 halftime bulge.
Center back Robinson, who plays for Atlanta United, tallied his first international goal with a close-range diving header in the 52nd minute before Lewis and Ferreira secured their braces with scores in the 55th and 62nd minutes, respectively.
Because the COVID-19 greatly stunted the USA’s 2020 plans, any game is considered precious with so many important competitions this year. The Olympic qualifying tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico is set for the end of March, followed by the Concacaf Nations Cup semifinals in June, the Gold Cup in July and the most important tournament of them all, World Cup qualifying kicking off in September.