The U.S. men's national team's long road to Russia began with a stunning detour, but then veered right back on course.
The Americans fell behind to St. Vincent and the Grenadines five minutes into their 2018 World Cup qualifying opener, but they bounced back and dominated thereafter, taking a 6-1 result in front of 43,433 at St. Louis's Busch Stadium.
Off the heels of a disappointing Gold Cup and a loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup playoff, the U.S. men tried to turn the page quickly, but that didn't exactly start as planned, as St. Vincent took a stunning 1-0 lead in the fifth minute, through Seattle Sounders 2 forward Oalex Anderson.
The U.S. equalized soon after, though with Bobby Wood heading home from close range after a cross from DeAndre Yedlin in the 11th minute. Fabian Johnson followed with a 29th-minute free kick, one that took a deflection but put the USA up 2-1.
Moments later, Jozy Altidore was left unmarked on a corner kick by the post, and he headed home after Jermaine Jones's flick-on to give the USA a 3-1 edge.
Geoff Cameron gave the U.S. its third goal off a set piece early in the second half, heading in after Wood's flick-on on a Johnson corner kick to extend the lead to 4-1. Gyasi Zardes followed soon after, finishing from the right channel after a through ball from Altidore to make it 5-1 in the 58th minute.
Altidore extended the lead to 6-1 after a nice turn and finish in the area, getting the benefit of a deflection for the 31st goal of his international career (fourth-most in U.S. history).
Matt Miazga and Darlington Nagbe made their debuts for the USA, checking into the game at the same time and becoming cap-tied in the process. Miazga, 20, was eligible to represent Poland, while Nagbe just received his U.S. citizenship in September and was born in Liberia.
Here's how the match unfolded:
GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS: Ventura Alvarado (Club America), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham FC), Brek Shea (Orlando City SC)
MIDFIELDERS: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Miguel Ibarra (Club Leon), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Alan Gordon (LA Galaxy), Jordan Morris (Stanford), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
GOALKEEPERS: Kenyan Lynch, Winslow McDowall
DEFENDERS: Glenford Ashton, Danroy Edwards, Kevin Francis, Million Prescott, Roy Richards, Reginal Richardson, Akeem Williams
MIDFIELDERS: Seinard Bowens, Dorren Hamlet, Vasbert Ledger, Nazir McBernette
FORWARDS: Oalex Anderson, Gavin James Shandel Samuel, Azinho Solomon, Tevin Slater