The United States survived a sluggish first-half stretch and several gilt-edged Trinidad & Tobago chances to explode for a 6-0 win Saturday in Cleveland and clinch a spot in the Concacaf Gold Cup quarterfinals. The US and Panama, both 2-0, will meet Wednesday in Kansas City, Kansas, to determine first- and second-place finishes.
Aaron Long scored his first international goal to open the scoring before a second-half onslaught that saw Gyasi Zardes score twice and narrowly miss a hat trick, with Christian Pulisic and Paul Arriola adding goals, while Pulisic and Jordan Morris each had two assists. Jozy Altidore came on for the final 16 minutes and helped set up Arriola's goal with a slick backheel, while Long added a second goal with a 90th-minute rebound to complete the rout.
The decisive scoreline and second-half rout came after Trinidad & Tobago came close to tying the score midway through the second half, with Levi Garcia missing badly on a wide-open transition opportunity in the 60th minute and Zack Steffen laying out to stop a curling Kevin Molino effort that was ticketed for the side netting three minutes later.
From there, however, it was all US, as Trinidad & Tobago's defensive organization crumbled. Michael Bradley and Nick Lima combined to set up Zardes' first goal in the 66th minute, and he curled in a 15-yard shot from a Pulisic run just three minutes later.
Morris, a second-half substitute for the once-again-active Tyler Boyd, set up both Pulisic and Arriola for close-range goals in the late going, even as the US hit the post twice and forced five saves from Trinidad goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.
- 41' – USA – Aaron Long | WATCH
- 66' – USA – Gyasi Zardes | WATCH
- 69' – USA – Gyasi Zardes | WATCH
- 73' – USA – Christian Pulisic | WATCH
- 76' – USA – Paul Arriola | WATCH
- 90' – USA – Aaron Long | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: Mission accomplished and progress on display for the US. Bigger challenges of course await in this tournament, but the second-half explosion should give the US serious confidence in the attacking third. A second straight shutout keeps the group happy, although Zack Steffen (3 saves) was busier than he would like. Wednesday's group decider will be about avoiding Jamaica, at least until the semifinals, but it could also give Gregg Berhalter a chance to rotate the lineup.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Clinging to a 1-0 lead by the length of Zack Steffen's fingertips, the US stopped creating chances and started finishing them in the 66th minute. Gyasi Zardes dropped a pass out of the penalty area to Michael Bradley, who picked up Nick Lima steaming into the penalty area from the right side. Lima left his feet to head the ball across goal for Zardes to apply one of his typical one-touch finishes.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Christian Pulisic had a few shaky moments compared to his normal high standards, mis-hitting a couple of set pieces and enduring some sloppy touches. But he always seemed to have an answer, and his ability to unbalance the Trinidad & Tobago defense, move into space and be on the giving or receiving end of the final pass was on display as the US scored five goals in the game's final 24 minutes.
- USA: Wednesday, June 26 vs. Panama (9 pm ET | FS1, UniMas, Univision Deportes, FOX Sports Go)
- TRI: Wednesday, June 26 vs. Guyana (6:30 pm ET | FS1, Univision Deportes, FOX Sports Go)