The US national team comfortably took care of World Cup qualifying business on Tuesday night with a patient 4-0 rout of guests Trinidad & Tobago in Jacksonville, Florida.
The hosts finally punched their ticket to the final-round Hexagonal by keeping the Soca Warriors strikers out of the game until they could break through at the offensive end. That happened near halftime, and the USMNT celebrated by busting the game open on the strength of Jozy Altidore's star display after intermission.
Tim Howard (7) - The Colorado netminder was able to put his feet up for about 70 minutes, but then came up with his two best saves to preserve the shutout.
Geoff Cameron (7) - Shifted to right back for the night, Cameron was the picture of solidity for the opening hour, when he racked up six of his eight pass picks and played seven positive passes into the attacking third. He had a couple of small defensive hiccups late, but recovered well.
Steve Birnbaum (7) - The D.C. United center back was the primary reason that Kenwyne Jones was as quiet as a whisper before exiting late. Birnbaum did take one quick nap in the 79th minute, but was bailed out by a big Howard save.
Omar Gonzalez (6.5) - The Pachuca veteran corralled Kevin Molino for most of the night, led the team with eight clearances and added a helpful shot block. Gonzalez saw his grade slip a little when he was beaten twice in the waning moments, including on a flailing tackle attempt.
Fabian Johnson (7) - The left back was as quiet as a mouse for most of the opening frame, but was much more involved after the break. Most notably, he notched a quality assist onAltidore's first strike and staged an important last-minute intervention in the US box at the defensive end.
Michael Bradley (7) - The "Bald Eagle" had one bad giveaway that caused trouble in the US end, but it was a momentary blip in a solid showing. Bradley repeatedly acted as pressure valve, with numerous defensive stops above the US area begetting 13 pass completions that moved the team into the attacking half.
Sacha Kljestan (7.5) - The Red Bulls ace was capitalistic in turning a blocked clearance into the opening goal, his second in as many games. Kljestan kept the offense headed in the right direction all night and was instrumental in setting up two other goals.
Alejandro Bedoya (6.5) - The Philly Union glue man certainly could have done more when put in good attack positions and his link passing was uncharacteristically spotty. Still, he contributed by quietly piling up 10 total defensive stops in the US end during the first half, and 14 in all before departing on 66 minutes.
Christian Pulisic (8) - Making his debut World Cup qualifying start, the teenager bothered the away defense all night long with insistent running on the ball. His decision making was not always sound and he misfired several crosses, but kept pecking away on the left flank until he got his assist. Pulisic also showed some mettle with a few strong recovery tackles.
Bobby Wood (5) - The Hamburg hit man had a tough night, especially in the hold-up game. Wood simply was unable to find the game while on the ball and was not as disruptive as usual with his runs.
Jozy Altidore (9) - The powerful forward scored a pair of excellent goals by losing defenders at the area, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. Altidore drew fouls, drew defenders, set up teammates and even dropped deep to hassle the Trinidadian attack.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (7) - Though he is not always one to listen to the peanut gallery, the manager enjoyed a big payoff by acquiescing to the chorus of fans and media members calling for Kljestan and Pulisic to start. While the team was a bit vanilla until their opening goal beat the halftime whistle, they never looked in danger of letting the result slip.
Jordan Morris (6.5) - Even if he never really broke loose, Seattle's star rookie was able to ask a few questions of the opposing defense during his half-hour shift. He was positively involved in the build-up to the last US goal, but did not open up space with off-the-ball runs like he usually does.
Paul Arriola (7.5) - The Tijuana youngster wasted no time getting involved, forcing a save from distance mere seconds after entering the fray. Soon thereafter, Arriola bagged his second US goal in as many caps by expertly pouncing on a rebound.
Caleb Stanko (6) - Though the late sub left the gate open a time or two, he cared for the ball without fault and pitched in with a strong tackle near the US box.