Pulisic's play off the bench, Besler's memorable day stand out in USA's WCQ rout
- The U.S. took care of business in its World Cup qualifier, and Christian Pulisic and Sacha Kljestan made statements off the bench.
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent and the Grenadines — The U.S. slammed St. Vincent and the Grenadines 6-0 in a World Cup qualifier here on Friday behind goals from Bobby Wood, Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler, Christian Pulisic (two) and Sacha Kljestan.
The easy win against a team made up mostly of semi-pros meant the U.S. moved closer to a berth in the 10-game final-round Hexagonal of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. After Trinidad and Tobago tied Guatemala later on Friday, the only way the U.S. won’t earn a berth is if it loses to Trinidad and Tobago in its next qualifier and Guatemala both defeats St. Vincent and the Grenadines and makes up a 12-goal difference with the U.S.
The U.S. took a little while to get going on Friday, but Wood’s smooth (almost effortless) curling finish gave the Americans the lead in the 28th minute, and goals quickly followed in succession by Besler and Altidore (from the penalty spot) for a 3-0 halftime lead. Pulisic and Kljestan came off the bench and polished off the rout, with each assisting the other for the final three tallies.
Here are three thoughts on the game:
Pulisic: Still very promising
Yes, Vincy was pretty bad, and yes, he came on with fresh legs against a dead opponent, but it’s hard not to be excited about Pulisic, the 17-year-old Dortmund prospect who looked good again on Friday. Wearing the U.S. No. 10 jersey at senior level for the first time (and certainly not the last), Pulisic earned those digits after coming on as a second-half sub.
He took a pass from Kljestan expertly and finished with ease for a 4-0 lead, and then Pulisic returned the favor to feed Kljestan for goal No. 5. His second goal came in added time for 6-0, a lovely, pinpoint shot from the top of the box. Pulisic’s quality is apparent the second he joins the game. He just knows where to be, what to do and how to do it with his technical ability.
It would be a just reward to get his first U.S. start in Tuesday’s game against Trinidad and Tobago.
Matt Besler had a day to remember
On the day that Besler’s wife, Amanda, gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Parker, Besler scored the first international goal of his career. Fittingly, he also remembered to do the “rocking the cradle” goal celebration, though one wonders if Besler practices goal celebrations before games, having scored just three in his 206-game MLS career.
His goal came after a set play in which club teammate Graham Zusi lofted a free kick into the box, only for a Vincy defender to head the ball to Besler, who finished like he has scored more goals in his career. You could say that Besler took full advantage of his chance to start with the absence of John Brooks: The U.S. defense also kept a clean sheet.
Expect some U.S. changes for Tuesday’s qualifier
DeAndre Yedlin earned a yellow card and will be suspended for the next game, so look for Yedlin to fly back to join his new club, Newcastle United, as soon as possible.
With there still being stakes for Tuesday’s game—winning the group, which would set up a November hex date at home vs. Mexico—look for Michael Bradley and probably Michael Orozco to return from being suspended for Friday’s game. Nor would it be surprising if Besler returned home on Saturday to be with his family after the birth of his daughter.