A pair of second half Christian Pulisic goals roused the U.S. MNT from its lethargy and sparked the Americans to a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago Thursday night in Commerce City, Colorado.
Playing in front of an enthusiastic sellout crowd of 19,188 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park just outside of Denver the Americans came out sluggish in a first half performance reminiscent of Saturday’s opening stanza against Venezuela.
U.S. coach Bruce Arena called out his side for its ponderous ball movement at halftime on Saturday, so it must have been discouraging for the boss to have to repeat that same charge against his players at Thursday’s intermission.
The Americans came back to salvage a 1-1 draw in that friendly versus Venezuela but the stakes were much higher against the Soca Warriors in Thursday’s World Cup Qualifier.
T&T entered the match at the bottom of the Hex (CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers) while the Americans were just one point better in fourth. Never having lost to Trinidad and Tobago in a home WCQ (7-0-1) the U.S. figured to come out flying but that was not to be the case.
With T&T content to sit back and let the favored Americans apply the pressure the Americans tested Soca Warriors keeper Jan-Michael Williams early. Clint Dempsey fired high in the 15th minute before John Brooks and Jozy Altidore were denied by the in-form keeper on back to back efforts in the 33rd minute.
The U.S. were in charge but the home team caught a break in the form of the woodwork when a Kenwyne Jones header crashed off of the crossbar with Tim Howard beaten and central defender Brooks stranded.
It was a bad moment for the Americans and not the only one on the night for the U.S backsmen.
The U.S finally got the badly needed breakthrough when Pulisic finished a good U.S. move started when Darlington Nagbe made a bold run at the T&T defense before laying off to Dempsey. Dempsey found DeAndre Yedlin and fullback delivered a tantalizing ball into the box for Pulisic to slide into the net.
It was a just the tonic for the Americans and 10 minutes later Pulisic both the future of American soccer and the present of the American game struck again. This time Altidore delivered the final ball, springing Pulisic in behind the defense with just Michael Williams to beat. Pulisic did just that, going short side on the T&T goalkeeper to complete his brace, the second of his 15 game U.S. career, giving the Borussia Dortmund man a total of seven international goals in those 15 matches.
That would be all of the scoring and if the night was something less than an artistic success, then a look at the Hexagonal Standings will surely be a beautiful sight to U.S. fans as the Americans rise from the fourth place playoff position into an automatic qualification spot at the halfway point of the CONCACAF WCQ.
Up next for the U.S. is Mexico on Sunday at the fabled Azteca where the U.S. has never won in World Cup qualifying play. The U.S. did pick up a point in Mexico City during the last cycle, a result that would surely satisfy Arena come Sunday.
It may not, however, be enough for Thursday’s hero. Speaking to FOX TV after the match Pulisic said, “it’s going to be a tough one down there, in Mexico especially, but we really want some revenge on them for when they got us earlier this year.”
Pulisic wasn’t done yet, adding, “So we’re really confident going in that game and we’re going to come out with a win there, too.”
USA 2-0 vs. Trinidad and Tobago
Costa Rica 0-0 vs. Panama
Mexico 3-0 vs. Honduras
POS. TEAM W D L GD. PTS
1. Mexico 4 1 0 7 13
2. Costa Rica 2 2 1 4 8
3. USA 2 1 2 3 7
4. Panama 1 3 1 1 6
5. Honduras 1 1 3 -8 4
6. T and T 1 0 4 -6 3
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 2 2
TRI 0 0 0
USA – Christian Pulisic (DeAndre Yedlin) 52nd minute
USA – Christian Pulisic (Jozy Altidore) 62
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 20-Geoff Cameron, 6-John Brooks, 21-Jorge Villafaña; 4-Michael Bradley (capt.); 23-Fabian Johnson (11-Alejandro Bedoya, 74), 10-Christian Pulisic, 15-Darlington Nagbe, 8-Clint Dempsey (16-Kellyn Acosta, 61), 17-Jozy Altidore (9-Bobby Wood, 83)
Subs not used: 12-Brad Guzan, 22-Nick Rimando, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 5-Tim Ream, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 13-Dax McCarty, 14-Paul Arriola, 18-Jordan Morris, 19-Graham Zusi
Head coach: Bruce Arena
TRI: 21-Jan-Michael Williams;; 11-Akhenaton Edwards, 4-Sheldon Bateau, 17-Mekeil Williams, 5-Daneil Cyrus; 10-Kevin Molino, 19-Kevan George, 8-Khaleem Hyland (23-Leston Paul, 76), 3-Joevin Jones (12-Shahdon Winchester, 68); 7-Nathan Lewis, 9-Kenwyne Jones (capt.) (20-Jamille Boatswain, 82)
Subs not used: 1-Marvin Phillip, 2-Aubrey David, 6-Radanfah Abu Bakr, 13-Hughtun Hector, 14-Andre Boucaud, 15-Curtis Gonzales, 16-Alvin Jones, 18-Hashim Arcia, 22-Adrian Foncette
Head coach: Dennis Lawrence
Stats Summary: USA / TRI
Shots: 15 / 11
Shots on Goal: 9 / 2
Saves: 2 / 7
Corner Kicks: 4 / 5
Fouls: 3 / 4
Offside: 0 / 4
TRI – Leston Paul (caution) 76th minute
USA – Alejandro Bedoya (caution) 85