Breathe easy, US national team fans: The Hexagonal has almost been reached.
Shrugging off suffocating tropical heat and the vagaries of a cricket ground for a pitch, the USMNT comfortably dispatched St. Vincent & the Grenadines 6-0 in Kingstown, St. Vincent on Friday afternoon, nearly assuring themselves of passage to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
Bobby Wood soothed US nerves with a well-taken curler in the 28th minute, while Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore struck soon after to send the Yanks into halftime with a 3-0 advantage at the Arnos Vale Ground. But the onslaught worsened after the break for the overmatched islanders.
Substitutes Sacha Kljestan and Christian Pulisic ran riot on "Vincy Heat" after they came on in the 66th and 67th minutes, respectively, combining to triple the final margin of victory with three smartly-crafted goals down the stretch.
The USMNT now return to their temporary home base in Jacksonville, Florida ahead of Tuesday's meeting with Trinidad & Tobago at EverBank Field, a match which, depending on the Soca Warriors' home game vs. Guatemala later on Friday, will determine the final look of CONCACAF Group C.
- 28' – USA – Bobby Wood (Fabian Johnson)
- 32' – USA – Matt Besler
- 43' – USA – Jozy Altidore (PK)
- 71' – USA – Christian Pulisic (Sacha Kljestan)
- 78' – USA – Sacha Kljestan (Christian Pulisic)
- 90'+2' – USA – Christian Pulisic (Sacha Kljestan)
- Full Box Score
1. BOBBY AND JOZY, WORKS: The effectiveness of a Wood-Altidore strike pairing was perhaps the biggest question facing the USMNT this week. Friday's early returns looked quite promising. Both seemed to understand the other's movements and patterns of play, and looked comfortable both leading the line and dropping off. Unlocking their full potential may require a true No. 10 in the hole behind them, though, which brings us to...
2. SACHA TIME: He didn't get the starting role that some expected. But Kljestan made the most of his minutes, scoring once and feeding Pulisic twice and showing the craftiness between the lines that the USMNT have so often needed in the past. Certainly all of Friday's exploits can be taken with a grain of salt given the limited opposition, but the New York Red Bulls playmaker proved he belongs.
3. ALL ABOARD THE PULISIC EXPRESS: While Kljestan's display may prompt smug satisfaction from the segment of the USMNT fanbase that has been crying out for his involvement, Pulisic's coolly-taken brace will spark more of the particular euphoria that comes with a young Yank showing enormous promise. The 17-year-old was clinical on both finishes, with his injury-time exclamation point particularly easy on the eyes:
- USA (WCQs): Tuesday, 9/6 vs. Trinidad & Tobago (EverBank Field, 8 pm ET; FS1, UniMás, UDN)
- VIN (WCQs): Tuesday, 9/6 at Guatemala (8:15 pm ET, Estadio Nacional Mateo Flores)