After two tough losses to begin the Final Round of 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying back in November, the U.S. Men’s National Team came into Friday’s home match against Honduras with a simple message:
By the 54th minute, they had peppered six goals in the back of the net and rode that score line to the final whistle, setting a record for the largest margin of victory in the Final Round of World Cup Qualifying since CONCACAF adopted the current format in advance of the 1998 tournament.
The victory not only provided a boost of confidence, but coming after a bitter 4-0 defeat at Costa Rica in November, it also served as a reminder to the rest of the region what the U.S. was capable of all along.
- READ MORE: Clint Dempsey has storybook return to the MNT vs. Honduras
- WATCH: Full highlights from the MNT's 6-0 win vs. Honduras
“I think it’s a statement game for sure,” said veteran MNT defender Geoff Cameron. “I don’t think we expected to win 6-0, but I think we just overall finished amazing tonight. Every opportunity we had we finished, and that’s very clinical. I think overall we pressured the ball and made it difficult. It was a great all-around game for everybody. We knew it was a big game for us. It was a must win and we took advantage of that.”
As Cameron points out, the MNT was efficient going forward, converting six of their eight shots on goal. In defense, Tim Howard made four saves while the MNT midfield and back line often frustrated the Honduras attack. The U.S. has yet to surrender a goal during Arena’s current tenure, posting three straight shutouts.
“It’s three points,” said U.S. captain Michael Bradley. “It’s the first step in terms of getting ourselves back in a good position in the table. We’ve waited a long time for tonight, especially given the way the two games went in November. I thought across the board, every guy stepped on the field tonight with the right mentality, ready to give everything to make sure we walked off the field with three points.”
Having begun the day at the bottom of the six-team Hexagonal, the U.S. jumped up to fourth place by the end of the night thanks to the win and other results around the region. Now they head south to Panama in search of a result on the road that can push them even higher.
“We can build off tonight and we know it’s going to be a tough game down in Panama,” said Cameron. “We’re not expecting to win 6-0 like we did tonight, but we know it’s wide open now with the results that happened. We know if we take care of business in Panama, we can climb the table and get back to where we belong.”
Bradley added, “I think tonight’s a good first step in terms of re-establishing a lot of things for our group in terms of who we are and what we’re about. We move on and get ourselves ready for Panama where we want to get three more.”Read more
After being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat in late August and undergoing two procedures to correct last fall, there were points during the last six months where Clint Dempsey thought he might never play soccer again.
But cleared to resume game action last month, the 32-year-old announced his return to the U.S. Men’s National Team on Friday night, recording his second career hat trick to put an exclamation point on a crucial 6-0 World Cup Qualifying victory against Honduras.
“You don’t know how things are going to work, if you’re going to come back for Seattle or if you’re going to do well enough to get called back for the U.S.,” Dempsey told reporters following the match. “There’s moments where you’re sitting at home and you’re praying that things will work out. I’m just blessed that I can keep going. It’s what I love to do and we’ll see what’s left.”
Given Friday’s performance, there appears to be a lot left for Dempsey, who wasn’t even slated to be part of the MNT roster a month ago as head coach Bruce Arena originally took a cautious approach with his return to the field.
Needing three points from Friday’s match and seeing Dempsey’s early-season form with Seattle Sounders FC, Arena had a change of heart and elected to bring the veteran forward to camp with the idea that he would play a reduced role. When Bobby Wood and Sounders FC teammate Jordan Morris picked up injuries playing with their clubs last weekend, that plan also changed.
Dempsey told reporters he knew he was starting on Wednesday and when Arena asked how long he would be able to go against Honduras, he replied, “I’ll give you all the minutes I can.”
In the end, he went the full 90 and pushed past Jozy Altidore to re-gain the title as the USA’s goal scoring leader in World Cup Qualifying with 17. His 53rd, 54th and 55th international strikes also pulled him within two goals of Landon Donovan’s MNT scoring record, something he says he’s contemplated breaking.
“Yeah, it’s in your mind -- If it comes it comes, if it don’t, it don’t. I’m going to keep pushing, I’m going to keep trying to be in games and try to help the team. If you’re doing the right things you should get looks and hopefully opportunities in front of goal and be able to break it. The most important thing is to qualify for the World Cup. That’s bigger than me trying to break the record.”
According to midfielder Michael Bradley, Dempsey’s presence provided a big confidence boost for the group going into such a big match.
“Clint’s record is second to none,” said the MNT captain. “He’s been here before on all the toughest days and when you look around the locker room before the game on a night like this and you see him, you know what you’re getting. You’re going to get a guy who’s going to give everything he has for the group and his quality around the goal, nobody can ever argue. “
After getting through a health scare that threatened his career, Dempsey is most proud to simply be helping the team as it rebounds from a tough start to the Final Round of World Cup Qualifying. Friday night’s win was the first step in the turnaround, while Tuesday’s match at Panama provides another opportunity. Should the MNT make its way to Russia, the only U.S. player to score in three different World Cups will have his eye on doing it in a fourth.
“Any time you play in a World Cup it’s a dream come true. It’s one thing to say it and another thing to do it. You’ve got to stay relevant, you’ve got to stay producing and you can’t just say it and that’s going to happen. I have to be on the field and do it. I’m just taking each game as it comes and hopefully I can play a part in helping the team. That’d be great if I can be around for that.”Read more
CHICAGO (March 25, 2017) – U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bruce Arena has added midfielder Paul Arriola to the roster ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup Qualifying match in Panama. The Club Tijuana midfielder will join the USMNT in San Jose, Calif., prior to Saturday night’s departure for Panama City.
Additionally, defenders John Brooks and Michael Orozco, midfielder Sebastian Lletget and forward Jordan Morris have been released from camp.
- READ MORE: U.S. bounces back with 6-0 WCQ win vs. Honduras
- GALLERY: Shots from the MNT's victory vs. Honduras
After scoring the opening goal, Lletget was forced to leave Friday’s 6-0 win against Honduras in the 18th minute after suffering a left foot injury and will be further evaluated in Los Angeles. Having dealt with a sinus infection during the week, Brooks also departed in the 70th minute.
Morris (right ankle) and Orozco (right knee) carried injuries into Friday’s game against Honduras and did not dress for the match.
With the changes, the MNT roster now stands at 23 players ahead of the team’s departure for Panama City on Saturday night. The U.S. takes on Panama on Tuesday, March 28 at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, live at 10 p.m. ET on beIN Sports, Telemundo and NBC Universo. Follow both matches on U.S. Soccer’s official Facebook, Twitter (@ussoccer) and Instagram (@ussoccer) accounts.
Updated Roster by Position (Club; WCQ Caps/Goals):
GOALKEEPERS (3): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids; 34/0), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo; 33/6), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 10/1), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG; 20/2), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX; 13/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 3/0), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 1/0), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas; 0/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City; 16/3)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 1/0), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana/MEX; 1/1), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 7/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 32/6), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy; 16/0), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls; 18/2), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers; 4/0), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 6/3)FORWARDS (3): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 35/16), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 37/17), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0)
Photos from the U.S. Men’s National Team's 6-0 World Cup qualifying victory against Honduras on March 24 in San Jose, Calif. The MNT used a hat trick from Clint Dempsey as well as goals from Sebastian Lletget, Michael Bradley and Christian Pulisic to rise to the occasion and earn their first three points of the Hexagonal in front of 17,729 fans on a rainy night at Avaya Stadium.Read more