The US national team will be rushing home to show off their report cards after resuscitating their World Cup qualifying campaign with a gaudy 6-0 victory over Hexagonal guests Honduras on Friday night.
The red, white and blue got a show-stopping hat trick from veteran returnee Clint Dempsey, a star turn from young gun Christian Pulisic and a host of other fine performances in posting their most wholly satisfying result since last summer's Copa America rout of Costa Rica. Despite all the pregame nail biting, the win was never in doubt once Sebastian Lletget broke the ice in the fifth minute.
Tim Howard (7) - Sure, the Colorado star was aided by the bar and one particularly sad Honduras misfire from close range, but for most of the night his safe hands were more than adequate. Then, he pulled a big stoppage time save to preserve the clean sheet.
Geoff Cameron (6) - Pressed into right back service by injuries, Cameron put in an uneven hour-long shift. He was guilty of a few missteps in the first half, but also pitched in with seven clearances.
Omar Gonzalez (6) - The Pachuca defender's passing ran hot and cold, but apart from a missed low cross, he was solid defensively. Gonzalez led the team with nine clearances.
John Anthony Brooks (6.5) - It wasn't a spotless outing from Brooks, but it still definitely counts as a comeback effort after his Costa Rica debacle. His hustle over to hassle Erick Andino helped spare the hosts a leak that could have altered the momentum of the game near the break.
Jorge Villafaña (6.5) - Making his World Cup qualifying debut, Villafaña continued to show he's a steady option at left back. He didn't misfire a pass until the US were already up six and was decent at the back. His well-timed passing lane jumps squelched a few dangerous Honduras rushes.
Michael Bradley (7.5) - For about 27 minutes, the "Bald Eagle" looked a bit indecisive when pressured on the ball in the US end. That all ended when he shrewdly created his own lane to bag an against-the-grain shot from distance for the US third. From that point on, Bradley completed 42 of 43 passes and made an astounding 18 total defensive stops.
Sebastian Lletget (7) - The LA Galaxy man's aerial challenge kicked off the sequence for the US opener and he dutifully followed up the play to finish it off, sending the team on their way to a rout. Unfortunately, Lletget had to be removed with an injury after only 18 minutes, but he ably manned the right until then.
Christian Pulisic (9) - Though he muffed an early link pass here and fell short in a physical confrontation there, the Borussia Dortmund youngster certainly papers over such trivialities by being a consistent big play threat. Pulisic's quick recognition of the situation enabled the run that facilitated the first US goal, his ice cream scoop pass to Dempsey on the second was delicious and his perfectly weighted through ball on the team's fifth may have even been better. In between those two assists, he got loose to net a goal of his own.
Clint Dempsey (10) - Our man Deuce returned from last year's health scare to put in exactly the performance his team needed on a hugely important occasion. Yeah, we could talk about him dropping deep to help out or banging bodies left and right, but forget all that. His first goal was the perfect blend of skill and grit. His second was cooler than cucumber ice cream. His third from a free kick was as audacious as it was divinely-struck.
Darlington Nagbe (7) - Surrounded by all the massive attack displays going on around him, it could be easy to overlook Nagbe's contributions. Due to his able ball movement and six tackles, we did not.
Jozy Altidore (8) - Though he was credited with two assists, Altidore played a key role in four of the team's first five goals. After his delightful feed to Pulisic on the opener and his flip touch through to set up the youngster's strike, we may need to start calling the Toronto FC star "Mr. Slip Pass."
Coach Bruce Arena (10) - The old/new US head coach ran out what was effectively a 4-1-4-1 set and it worked like a dream throughout. Arena also got Brooks and Gonzalez back on the same page as a central duo (with one miscommunication exception) and proved that the team can make good use of an actual left back. Above all, he had the boys whipped into a killer-instinct frenzy we've not seen in a long while. They didn't stop trying to score at three goals, they didn't even stop at six. Kudos, sir.
Alejandro Bedoya (6.5) - Solid possession work, with a couple of key passes included in the passing bunch? Check. Several defensive help plays spread all over the field? Check. In other words, it was a typical outing for Bedoya, who went 72 minutes in injury relief.
Graham Zusi (5.5) - Acting as a right back in a competitive US match for the first time, Zusi was respectable apart from a couple of bad turnovers in his own end.
Tim Ream (6) - The Fulham defender was capable as a late injury sub for Brooks.