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
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
SAN JOSE, Calif. (March 24, 2017) – The U.S. Men’s National Team used a hat trick from Clint Dempsey as well as goals from Sebastian Lletget, Michael Bradley and Christian Pulisic to earn an emphatic 6-0 Final Round World Cup Qualifying win against Honduras at Avaya Stadium. The victory gives the U.S. its first three points of the Hexagonal and pushes the team into fourth place, just one point behind Tuesday’s opponents Panama for CONCACAF’s third and final automatic World Cup berth.
The U.S. was clinical in front of goal all night, converting six of the eight shots it put on target. That finishing touch told from the outset as it took the U.S. just five minutes to gain a lead when Lletget tallied his first international goal by finishing Pulisic’s deflected shot at the back post. The U.S. doubled the advantage through Bradley in the 27th minute, before Pulisic slipped Dempsey in on goal to score his first in the 32nd, sending the MNT into halftime with a 3-0 advantage.
The U.S. was relentless coming out of the locker room, with Pulisic converting 12 seconds into the second half to give the MNT a 4-0 lead. A well-worked play between Jozy Altidore and Pulisic led to Dempsey finishing his second of the game in the 49th minute, before the veteran forward scored his third from a brilliant free kick in the 54th minute. Dempsey’s hat trick is the second of his international career and first by a U.S. player in World Cup Qualifying since Jozy Altidore bagged all three in a 3-0 U.S. win on April 1, 2009 vs. Trinidad & Tobago
The win is the largest margin of victory for the U.S. against Honduras as well as the team’s biggest in the Final Round of FIFA World Cup Qualifying.
Next on the Schedule: The U.S. MNT looks for another three points as it travels south to take on third-place Panama at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City on Tuesday, March 28 at 10 p.m. ET on beIN Sports, Telemundo and Universo.
Social: Twitter (@ussoccer; @ussoccer_esp); Facebook; Instagram; Snapchat (ussoccer)
|2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - CONCACAF Final Round Standings|
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Goal Scoring Rundown:
USA – Sebastian Lletget, 5th minute: The Honduras defense struggled to control the USA’s early high press, with Ever Alvarado popping a clearance straight up in the air. Jozy Altidore chested it down and began a nice combination with Christian Pulisic, sending the 18-year-old into the box along on the left. The MNT midfielder rifled a quick shot that deflected off the goalkeeper straight into the path of Lletget, who easily tapped home at the back post. USA 1, HON 0 [WATCH]
USA – Michael Bradley (Alejandro Bedoya), 27th minute: After sustaining some pressure from Honduras, the U.S. double its lead through its captain. Alejandro Bedoya collected a pass on the right sideline and laid it back for Michael Bradley. The veteran midfielder switched towards the left, rounding Jorge Claros to gain more space and unleash a shot that skipped off the wet turf and inside the lower right post. USA 2, HON 0 [WATCH]
USA – Clint Dempsey (Christian Pulisic), 32nd minute: Continuing to press the attack, Darlington Nagbe headed a ball into the path of Pulisic who turned and took a stride before sending a deft chip into the path of Dempsey. With Henry Figueroa on his back, the bullish forward took the ball off his right shoulder before muscling off the Honduras defender and chopping a rising shot past Donis Escober and inside the top right corner. USA 3, HON 0 [WATCH]
USA – Christian Pulisic (Jozy Altidore), 46th minute: Christian Pulisic started and finished the fourth goal, which came straight from the second-half kickoff. Pulisic laid back to Michael Bradley in the center circle, who chipped a ball to the right sideline for Altidore. The expert forward then nodded ahead for Dempsey, who got a foot to it, but briefly lost possession to Maynor Figueroa. Dempsey won the ball back and played for Altidore, who then threaded Pulisic into the box, where the young attacker coolly finished inside the lower right corner 12 seconds after kicking off. USA 4, HON 0 [WATCH]
USA – Clint Dempsey (Christian Pulisic), 49th minute: After pressure from Pulisic forced a turnover at midfield, Altidore drove up the left flank and centered for Pulisic, who caught Dempsey strolling straight up the middle and a perfectly weighted through ball. The newly returned forward split the Honduran defense and rounded Escober to bury his second of the game. USA 5, HON 0 [WATCH]
USA – Clint Dempsey, 54th minute: After Pulisic earned a free kick just outside the penalty area, Dempsey lined up over the ball and rifled a right-footed blast that swung inside the top left corner to complete his second career hat trick. The goal also pushed Dempsey back past Jozy Altidore and into first on the MNT’s all-time World Cup Qualifying goals list with 17. USA 6, HON 0 [WATCH] FINAL
Key Saves and Defensive Stops:
USA – Tim Howard, 16th minute: After Omar Gonzalez made an initial clearance on a through ball, Emilio Izaguirre collected on the left and charged up the flank before centering a cross. The ball fell for Alberth Ellis right at the penalty spot, where he settled with his left before turning to hit a low, right-footed effort that Howard was quick to get down to save.
- Making his World Cup Qualifying debut, Lletget tallied his first international goal in the fifth minute before having to leave the match due to injury in the 18th.
- Bradley’s 27th minute strike was his 16th international goal, sixth all-time in World Cup Qualifying and first since scoring against Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals on July 22, 2015.
- Dempsey recorded his second hat trick and first since July 18, 2015 vs. Cuba. The three goals push him to 17 all-time in World Cup Qualifying, moving him past Jozy Altidore into first for the MNT’s all-time lead.
- Dempsey’s hat trick for the USA is the team’s first in a World Cup Qualifier since Jozy Altidore bagged all three goals against Trinidad and Tobago in a 3-0 U.S. win on April 1, 2009 in Nashville, Tenn.
- The hat trick also pushes Dempsey’s overall goals total to 55, placing him just two behind Landon Donovan for the USA’s all-time lead.
- The goals were Dempsey’s first for the USA since returning from medical problems he suffered over the end of 2016. He last scored against Ecuador in the MNT’s 2-1 win on June 16 in the quarterfinal of the 2016 Copa America Centenario.
- Christian Pulisic’s goal is his third career World Cup Qualifying strike. He previously scored two against St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sept. 2, 2016 (also in a 6-0 USA win).
- Tim Howard made four saves to earn his 38th career clean sheet.
- After making his international debut on Jan. 29 vs. Serbia, Jorge Villafaña joined Lletget in earning his first World Cup Qualifying cap.
- The U.S. Men’s National Team moves to 16-4-4 all-time against Honduras and has gone 13-2-3 on U.S. soil.
- The MNT has now gone 6-2-1 against Los Catrachos in World Cup Qualifying.
- Bruce Arena moves his career record vs. Honduras to 6-1-0 all-time.
- U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report -
Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Honduras
Date: March 24, 2016
Competition: 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia - Qualifier
Venue: Avaya Stadium; San Jose, Calif.
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. PT
Weather: 56 degrees; raining
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 3 3 6
HON 0 0 0
USA – Sebastian Lletget 5th minute
USA – Michael Bradley (Alejandro Bedoya) 27
USA – Clint Dempsey (Christian Pulisic) 32
USA – Christian Pulisic (Jozy Altidore) 46
USA – Clint Dempsey (Christian Pulisic) 49
USA – Clint Dempsey 54
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-Jorge Villafaña, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 6-John Brooks (14-Tim Ream, 70), 20-Geoff Cameron (19-Graham Zusi, 59); 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 9-Sebastian Lletget (11-Alejandro Bedoya, 18), 10-Christian Pulisic, 15-Darlington Nagbe; 8-Clint Dempsey, 17-Jozy Altidore
Subs not used: 12-David Bingham, 22-Nick Rimando; 5-Matt Besler, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 21-Walker Zimmerman; 13-Kellyn Acosta, 16-Sacha Kljestan, 23-Dax McCarty; 18-Chris Wondolowski
Head coach: Bruce Arena
HON: 22-Donis Escober; 7-Emilio Izaguirre (14-Boniek Garcia, 46), 3-Maynor Figueroa (capt.), 4-Henry Figueroa, 5-Ever Alvarado, 21-Brayan Beckeles; 20-Jorge Claros, 15-Roger Espinoza; 12-Romell Quioto (11-Erick Andino, 43) 19-Alberth Elis, 17-Andy Najar (8-Oliver Morazan, 61)
Subs not used: 1-Luis Lopez, 18-Ricardo Canales, 2-Felix Crisianto, 6-Allans Vargas, 23-Cesar Oseguera; 10-Mario Martinez, 16-Carlos Disuca, 9-Anthony Lozano, 13-Eddie Hernandez
Head coach: Jorge Luis Pinto
Stats Summary: USA / HON
Shots: 9 / 11
Shots on Goal: 8 / 4
Saves: 4 / 2
Corner Kicks: 0 / 7
Fouls: 15 / 8
Offside: 2 / 2
HON – Ever Alvarado (caution) 15th minute
USA – Geoff Cameron (caution) 25
Referee: Walter Lopez (GUA)
Assistant Referee 1: Gerson Lopez (GUA)
Assistant Referee 2: Hermenerito Leal (GUA)
4th Official: Oscar Reyna (GUA)
Budweiser Man of the Match: Clint DempseyRead more