It was a match the United States needed, and the team's best players responded in a big way.
Team USA came through with a 6-0 win over Honduras Friday in San Jose, giving the squad its first points in this round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
The match was the first competitive contest under Bruce Arena since he took over the team in November. The pressure was especially high after losing the first two matches of the Hex, leading to Jurgen Klinsmann's firing.
Fortunately, the team stepped up with an excellent offensive performance to blow away Honduras and earn three key points.
Clint Dempsey finished with a hat trick after missing time with heart problems. None of the three goals were more impressive than this free kick:
Paul Carr of ESPN provided a note on the scoring:
Christian Pulisic was outstanding with a goal and two assists as he truly established himself as a force on the international scene. Michael Bradley came through with one of his best goals for the national team in years, while Sebastian Lletget scored his first-ever goal at the international level, but was forced off was an injury in the 18th minute.
Alexi Lalas of Fox Sports summed up the performance:
Mexico is on top of the CONCACAF table with after its 2-0 win over Costa Rica earlier in the night, tallying seven points in three matches. However, the United States made up some ground on the rest of the field, moving into a tie for fourth place with Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago.
|CONCACAF Table Through Three Matches|
|5||Trinidad and Tobago||3||-3|
Top three qualify for the World Cup with the fourth team advancing to a playoff.
The match started just about as well as the United States could have hoped.
It only took a few minutes for the Americans to get onto the scoreboard, thanks to some aggressive play in the final third as captured by Fox Sports:
While Lletget scored off the rebound, George Dohrmann noted it took a few players to create the goal:
Honduras earned a few chances off sloppy defense by the United States, but the visitors weren't able to take advantage near the net.
This ended up costing them as a pair of goals by two of the most veteran players in the lineup helped blow open the match. Bradley scored with an impressive left-footed strike from outside the box, followed just a few minutes later by Dempsey off a great pass from Pulisic.
Just 32 minutes into the contest, the Americans were up 3-0.
The second half was just an onslaught, with Pulisic scoring in the opening seconds, followed by two more goals from Dempsey to double the lead in less than 10 minutes.
Honduras had led possession, but the U.S. was simply making the most of its opportunities every time it had the ball in the attacking half. Pulisic's presence in the midfield also made a huge difference with his precise passing.
Max Bretos of ESPN gave high praise of the young player:
Solid defense and some strong plays by Tim Howard helped preserve the clean sheet in a dominant performance for the Americans.
Injuries are the only concern at this point, with Lletget leaving early and John Brooks being stretchered off in the second half.
The United States will go back on the road in its next match to face Panama on Tuesday. If this team can keep the momentum over the weekend, it will be difficult to stop.
Honduras will host Costa Rica as it tries to make its own move up the standings.
Dempsey wasn't the first choice to be a starter after missing so much time with his heart condition. However, Arena explained after the game the lack of choice, per Ives Galarcep of Goal.com:
Obviously, he didn't regret the decision after he scored a hat trick.
"He was exceptional," Arena said, per Julian Gonzalez of beIN Sports. "Damn good."
While the team had built a 3-0 lead at halftime, the team didn't rest on its laurels while scoring three more goals to remove any doubt.
"I was amazed at how we came out in the second half," Arena added, per Jeff Carlisle of ESPN.
The rest of qualifying won't be quite as easy, but the team got off to an excellent restart under the new coach.