Watch: Dempsey returns with hat trick, Pulisic prolific for USA in qualifying rout of Honduras
The U.S. men's national team came out firing when it needed to most, securing its first points of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying Hexagonal in emphatic fashion.
Clint Dempsey had a hat trick, Christian Pulisic added a goal and three assists, and the USA routed Honduras 6-0 at the San Jose Earthquakes' Avaya Stadium in a game the Americans had to have to get their qualifying campaign back on track.
Sebastian Lletget, Michael Bradley and Dempsey scored in the opening 32 minutes to set the tone, and things took off from there.
The stakes were clear entering the night for the Americans, who lost consecutive games to Mexico and Costa Rica in November and are hoping to qualify for an eighth straight World Cup. They're dealing with a series of injuries and suspensions, though, with the likes of Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin, Jermaine Jones and Timmy Chandler all unavailable for selection.
Bruce Arena turned to the experienced likes of Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard and Dempsey and rising star Pulisic in hopes of righting the ship against Honduras, which entered 1-1-0 and had three points through two qualifiers in the round.
The U.S. got off to a dream start, with Lletget scoring in the fifth minute. The Bay Area native and LA Galaxy midfielder tapped home after Pulisic had a chance from in close deflected to the far post, giving the USA a 1-0 lead.
Honduras bounced back with a chance from inside the U.S. box, but it was hit directly at Howard, who saved easily.
Lletget was the victim of a harsh challenge from Ever Alvarado soon after his goal and was forced out in the 17th minute with a left ankle injury, replaced by Alejandro Bedoya.
Bradley doubled the USA's lead in the 27th minute with a long-range blast. Afforded room some 25 yards from goal, Bradley laced a low, left-footed shot into the far corner to make it 2-0.
Dempsey continued the dream start with a sensational sliding volley. After Pulisic played him over the top, Dempsey, who overcame an irregular heartbeat to return to playing, controlled with his chest and hit off the bounce while being hounded by a defender to make it 3-0.
Honduras nearly pulled one back through Erick Andino, who came on for an injured Romell Quioto, at the end of the first half. Emilio Izaguirre picked him out with a cross from the left, but he put his sitter just wide of the post. It appeared John Brooks may have deflected or altered the shot, but it was a golden opportunity that went begging for Los Catrachos.
The U.S. picked up right where it left off in the second half. Not even 15 seconds after the restart, Pulisic scored the USA's fourth. Dempsey won back possession after losing it in the final third and found Altidore, who slipped Pulisic in through the back line. The 18-year-old Dortmund rising star made no mistake with his finish, piling onto the USA's lead.
Moments later, Pulisic turned provider for Dempsey with a perfect diagonal ball through the midfield. Dempsey pulled within three of Landon Donovan's all-time scoring record to make it 5-0 after rounding the goalkeeper.
Dempsey got his hat trick soon after. Lining up a free kick from a right angle and about 25 yards out, Dempsey turned in a sensational effort, chopping the distance between him and Donovan's record down to two to make it 6-0.
The only negative for the U.S. came when John Brooks was forced off with an apparent injury in the 70th minute. FOX Sports reported it was merely a dehydration issue, though replays appeared to show Brooks's right knee buckle when planting. His status for Tuesday's qualifier in Panama remains uncertain.