On a beautiful night in Commerce City, Colorado, the US national team did what they had to do by earning all 3 points against a plucky T&T team. It was really a tale of two halves for the US, with the Yanks taking much longer than anyone would have liked to start clicking on offense and defense. The US conceded 60% of the possession to T&T over the first 15 minutes of the game, seemingly content to allow their opponent to control the ball and dictate the tempo. If not for Kenwyne Jones lack of a finishing touch tonight, the US could have easily gone down a goal or two in the first half. Despite a number of wake up calls, it wasn’t until the last 15 minutes of the first half that we saw more urgency and intent from the US.
Let’s break down the 3 things we learned from tonight’s game, as the US moves into the 3rd and final World Cup automatic qualifying spot for the time being.
Christian Pulisic continues to astonish
We are running out of superlatives very quickly for the still 18 year old starlet. During this international window he has scored all 3 of the US’s goals, including a brace of goals tonight to clinch the win. While this gives us all the feels and leaves us extremely excited about our senior team’s future, it is also becoming a bit of a worry the lack of productivity from the forwards up top.
To put his meteoric rise into context, of the US’s 9 goals scored in qualification this year, Pulisic has scored or assisted on 6 of them. He has 7 goals in 15 appearances for the national team, 5 goals in his 8 qualifying matches, and has scored 4 goals in his last 4 for country. Defenses will continue to queue off of him which will provide more space and time for those around him, they will need to take advantage of it if we are to compete at all in Mexico on Sunday.
Dempsey is not happy with Arena’s decision
In the 61’ minute, with Dempsey chasing the chance to be the US’s all time goal scorer, Bruce Arena subbed him off in favor of Kellyn Acosta. Deuce made his displeasure known by awkwardly batting away Bruce Arena’s handshake and then proceeding to stare him down and exchange some words of displeasure. Now I am all for passionate players who want to be in the game, and I am sure it means a lot to Clint to set the goal scoring record, but Bruce is still a new coach to this version of the national team and he cannot allow a senior member and previous captain to run the show. It will be very interesting to see if Dempsey stays in the camp, heads home, or gets benched in favor of Wood or Morris on Sunday. Either way, it was a tense minute or two while Dempsey walked slowly off the field and to his spot on the bench.
The US will lose Sunday night if things don’t improve quickly
The plan for this two game stretch was very clear. The team went into tonight knowing they must secure all 3 points at home against Trinidad and Tobago, and they would be fine with a loss to Mexico. The chances of a US win in the Azteca are very small, as in, it has never happened in WCQ small. So Arena and Co. effectively put all of their eggs in tonight’s basket knowing that any point at all in Mexico would be nice to have, but not critical if we could a positive result in Colorado.
Considering the importance of tonight’s match, and the fact that our preferred 11 were on the field, it was concerning to see T&T dictate tempo and possession for as much of the first half as they did, including a handful of nervy moments where they came within inches of scoring. Kenwyne and Joevin Jones both were dangerous in the first 45 minutes, with the best chance coming of a chipped in through ball that caught Brooks completely flat footed. The ball found Kenwyne’s head perfectly and it appeared that a goal was eminent until at the last moment it came back off the crossbar and was swept away by the defense.
There will be some tired legs and there is a good chance that a handful who started tonight will not see the field on Sunday. Expect the US to get up for the next match as it always does against Mexico, but I am pessimistic that we can get out of their with points. I will be the first to run in the street celebrating if I am wrong.