It was the Christian Pulisic show once more for the United States national team as they blew away Trinidad and Tobago in World Cup qualifying action, with the teenage sensation scoring both goals in a 2-0 win in the Hex round of CONCACAF qualifying. It was a much-needed win for the USMNT, especially with a big, big match against Mexico looming in just a few short days.
The first half was largely dominated by the United States, though it took some time for them to get themselves established — Trinidad and Tobago actually won the possession battle in the first 15 minutes, though the U.S. dominated the actual early scoring chances. By the end of the half, the possession numbers skewed heavily towards the USMNT, but they had no goals to show for it thanks to a seeming lack of energy in the side.
That changed in a big way early in the second half, with the U.S. coming out of the locker room looking more determined and more focused on the task at hand. The deadlock was broken by Christian Pulisic in the 52nd minute as he rounded off a fantastic team sequence, and he added a second 10 minutes later on a neat ball over the top from Jozy Altidore.
That sudden turnaround in fortunes helped propel the United States to really take hold of the match in the way that they’d needed to from the start, utterly dominating the run of play for the rest of the match. A third goal wouldn’t come, though not for lack of trying — but the more important thing was that the U.S. never gave up a goal, and that they secured the three points they so desperately needed in the Hex round of World Cup qualifying.
Those three points bring them to seven, a number that gives them much more safety in the standings, not to mention much-improved peace of mind before they head south to face Mexico in the Estadio Azteca. This was the win they had to get, and now the USMNT can focus on the next steps as they chase their World Cup dreams in 2018.
United States: Tim Howard; DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Jorge Villafaña; Darlington Nagbe, Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson (Alejandro Bedoya 74’); Christian Pulisic; Jozy Altidore (Bobby Wood 83’), Clint Dempsey (Kellyn Acosta 61’)
Goals: Pulisic (52’, 62’)
Trinidad and Tobago: Jan-Michael Williams; Carlos Edwards, Daneil Cyrus, Sheldon Bateau, Mekeil Williams, Joevin Jones (Shahdon Winchester 68’); Kevin Molino, Khaleem Hyland (Leston Paul 76’), Kevan George, Nathan Lewis; Kenwyne Jones (Jamille Boatswain 82’)
Three things we learned
Jan-Michael Williams had a fantastic performance in goal
Williams is not a player you’ve likely heard much about over the course of his career, but this match was the 32-year-old goalkeeper’s 50th cap for Trinidad and Tobago, and he certainly showed us why they’ve relied on him so much. He made numerous top-notch saves throughout, keeping his team in the match at times that it looked like they were going to start giving up goals in bunches.
Sure, he gave up two goals to Pulisic and his team lost the game, but if Jan-Michael Williams had even a slightly lesser performance in goal, they would have lost by a much, much heavier margin. Trinidad and Tobago are much better off for having him in goal, and he’s going to be key to any success they have in the near future.
We’re running out of plaudits for Christian Pulisic
Is there anything we haven’t praised Pulisic for lately? He’s a superlative playmaker, a clutch goalscorer, and a dynamic threat all over the final third. And oh yeah, now he’s added a high-quality press game to his arsenal for when his team is out of possession. Because he needed more tricks in his tool bag.
Seriously, if it wasn’t already obvious, Christian Pulisic is the best player in the United States men’s national team, and it’s not by a terribly close margin anymore. And he’s still just 18. This kid is special.
Darlington Nagbe is pretty dang good, too
Nagbe hasn’t consistently earned praise during his time with the USMNT, but he seems to have finally found himself a good place in the team: as a shuttling midfielder who can drift in and out of wide areas, keeping possession safely and helping push the pace of play when needed.
That’s something that the national team has lacked to their detriment in recent years, so seeing him succeed in that role has been most welcome. And he played it superbly well in this match at a time when they needed it dearly, giving fans — and hopefully Bruce Arena — a whole lot more confidence in what Nagbe can do for the national team in the future.