CARSON, Calif. - Taylor Twellman has received his share of criticism for not being able to translate his goal scoring success at the club level to the international stage. Sunday at The Home Depot Center, Twellman hit for only the ninth hat trick in U.S. national team history to pace the USA to an overwhelming 5-0 victory against Norway.
All three of Twellman's goals were well taken, and certainly served to answer some of the questions from his critics. While next will come the inevitable questions of the ability to put in similar performances with any consistency in the future, Sunday still belonged to Twellman and the rest of the U.S. team who waltzed their way through an overmatched Norwegian side.
Norway fielded a fairly inexperienced side, as six players in the starting 11 were making their full national team debut. Couple that with the fact that the Norwegians were playing their second game in five days in their North American tour, and it starts to paint a pretty telling picture. Still, the U.S. side simply outplayed Norway at every position on the field.
It took the USA just five minutes to open the scoring, as a pair of New England Revolution teammates hooked up for the first U.S. marker. Clint Dempsey crossed the ball into Twellman, who found himself with the ball and a lot of space in the penalty area. Twellman took a touch to settle the ball, and then with his second put away the game's opening goal.
"Clint (Dempsey) was all over the place in the first 20 minutes. He played me a great ball," Twellman said. "It kind of surprised me a bit. I could kind of tell from Clint that he was going to whip one in, so I kind of just drifted in behind and fortunately the ball went into the back of the net."
U.S. national team manager Bruce Arena had nothing but praise for Twellman's performance; the reigning MLS MVP and Budweiser Golden Boot winner, by most accounts, is currently sitting on the bubble for the U.S. squad in this summer's World Cup.
"He scored three goals. That's sometimes how you're graded as a striker. If that's the case he gets an A for today," said Arena. "All three goals were great. Taylor is getting used to what we ask from our forwards. What can you say? Three goals is three goals."
Twellman wasn't the only player who had a breakout game. Todd Dunivant made his national team debut as well, getting the start on the left side of defense. The Los Angeles Galaxy defender seemed to have some nervous moments early minutes of the game, but settled in quickly and ended the day with two assists, including an assist on Twellman's second goal.
"We'll take it. It's a good way to get your first cap," said Dunivant. "I was a little bit nervous to start off. It helps when you get your feet under you and get those first few touches out of the way. It helps when you get those goals early. It takes a lot of the pressure off."
Again it was nothing but high praise out of the U.S. manager after the game for Dunivant's performance.
"It was his first game. Defensively I think he was rock solid today," said Arena. "He did a good job of getting into spots in terms of giving us possession of the ball. I think it's something new for him. Todd's a good player and I think he showed well. Hopefully he can build on today's performance."
The game never really was in doubt for the USA as Norway managed to force goalkeeper Kevin Hartman into making only one save. It was a far cry from last weekend's game against Canada, which ended in a 0-0 draw. The U.S. simply had too much speed for the Norwegians, who were outpaced from the opening whistle straight through to the 90th minute.
A handful of players stood out from the rest Sunday for the U.S. side, and they'll hope to continue to make an impression heading into this summer's World Cup. For Arena, the harder his decision when finalizing his roster, the better equipped he'll be in Germany, and the win against Norway was a good step for both the national team and the MLS contingent of players.
"Today was just a good statement by some of our domestic players," said Arena. "It puts them in a favorable light in terms of positioning themselves for the World Cup roster."
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.