Dempsey hat trick, Pulisic shines as U.S. thrashes Honduras

Clint Dempsey No. 8 of the United States scores his third goal of the night against Honduras during their Federation Internationale de Football Association 2018 World Cup Qualifier at Avaya Stadium on Saturday in San Jose, California.

You could excuse Christian Pulisic for not understanding the gravity of the U.S. men's national team current World Cup qualifying predicament given his tender age of 18, but the rising star of U.S. Soccer spoke with the maturity of a veteran about the task he and his teammates face when the face Honduras tonight at Avaya Stadium (kick-off at 7:30 p.m., broadcast on FS1 and UniMas).

Coming into the match sitting at the bottom of the CONCACAF table with zero points, the United States could not afford to leave San Jose with anything less than three points if it wanted to keep its hopes for 2018 alive. I hate using these terms, but they kind of play with two No. 10s underneath a No. 9, and he's been playing there [at No. 10] recently. "I have T-shirt rights to that".

Behind a hat trick from Clint Dempsey, Team USA blew past Honduras 6-0 Friday in the rain at Avaya Stadium, reviving the Americans' stalled World Cup qualifying campaign. Sebastian Lletget and Michael Bradley also scored.

Christian Pulisic: Asked to play the game's most important position, the No. 10, in the most important game the US has played since Brazil, the 18-year-old breezed through a brilliant performance.

Now Dempsey is just two goals shy of Landon Donovan's United States men's national team record for career goals. Clint Dempsey scored a hat-trick in this critical game.

But on the night the USA got its groove back, the connection between Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic transcended age and experience and boiled down to the most elemental part of this handsome game.

"You don't know how things are going to work, if you're going to come back for Seattle or if you're going to do well enough to get called back for the U.S.", Dempsey told reporters following the match.

A trip to a fourth World Cup - he has scored in each of three he's already played in, the only American to do so - now seems likely too, provided the Americans qualify.

Maybe the next one will come against Panama on Tuesday. The USA won the game 2-1.

"He continues to make progress as a player and a person", Arena said. "It shows good heart".

"Tough games", said Pulisic of the November losses to Mexico and Costa Rica that cost then head coach Jurgen Klinsmann his job.

It was a signature performance and all the more remarkable considering that it came in the 34-year-old's first global following an eight-month layoff because of a heart scare that threatened to end his career.

"We didn't have anyone else", Arena said. "Made it easy for me".

Tim Howard, 38 years old and a starter at the past two World Cups, is expected to be in goal after recovering from a thigh injury sustained against Mexico.

Geoff Cameron, who missed the November qualifiers because of a knee injury, could be shifted to right back — he plays midfield for Stoke and usually is in the US central defense.

But there were yet more injuries. Lletget had to leave the game in the 18th minute with an injured ankle. But instead of wondering how many times we'll get to see Pulisic and Dempsey play together, perhaps the best thing to do is savor it while we can and look forward to more opportunities to witness something special, something that, like Friday's performance, won't leave our memory banks anytime soon. With Fabian Johnson hurt, Arena started wide midfielders largely overlooked by Klinsmann: Lletget and Darlington Nagbe.

Straight from kick-off, United States of America made it 4-0 as Jozy Altidore clipped a pass through to Pulisic, who side-footed home an easy finish. His left-footed shot that went off goalkeeper Donis Escobar, and Lletget tapped in the ball with his right foot from 2 yards.

Bradley, given his debut by Arena in 2006, doubled the lead when he took a pass from Bedoya, cut to his left, took four touches and cut the ball back to beat Escobar with one-hopper from about 25 yards. Pulisic played a deft pass into space for Dempsey who proceeded to draw Escober off his line before converting from close range. Clint Dempsey made it 3-0 USMNT in the 32nd minute. It won't be another 6-0 game, but 3-1 or even 1-0 and a total shut down of the Panamanian team would sell me 100%.

  • Julie Sanders