The United States men’s national soccer team continued rising in the table positions of the hexagonal to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia. The USA beat Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 in a game that Christian Pulisic was once again the main protagonist on the pitch.
Bruce Arena’s head-coaching comeback to the team changed the direction that the team was heading under Jürgen Klinsmann’s leadership—especially in his last months on the job. Not only because of the positive results but for the way that the team is playing. A combination of veterans and young players who are displaying a fast-paced, passing-oriented game structure.
This combination is a crucial systemic aspect for any great team in football. Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard and Jozy Altidore are the perfect complement for players like Pulisic, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, Paul Arriola and Kellyn Perry-Acosta. That mentoring will have an eventual impact on these young players’ careers both on and off the field.
Before referee Oscar Moncada blew the whistle to start this game, USA and Trinidad and Tobago were only separated by one point in this hexagonal—four points and three points respectively. Yes, USA got its first and only four points at that point after Arena’s comeback. It was a must-win situation for the USA. In fact, the team will still be in a must-win situation for the rest of the hexagonal. Russia is still far away. But thankfully for USA fans, the team took a collective control over its rival throughout the entire game.
Pulisic And His Veterans
The USMNT controlled every aspect of the game against Trinidad and Tobago. The team displayed very accurate, fluid ball-movement through both the interior and wing passing paths. Bradley, as per usual, was the main nucleus of the offense. He was in charge of distributing the first step (or pass) to start the offensive transitions. It really helps that Bradley is great at both making long and short passes.
The other veterans who really stood out were Dempsey and Altidore. Both players were crucial at the second-man role in the triangle plays and very active every time they attacked Jan-Michael Williams. They constantly dropped back a line to help in the play-making and allow Pulisic, Jorge Villafana, and Fabian Johnson to have more space and impact through the exteriors.
It wasn’t until early in the second half that the USMNT could score its first goal. A beautiful, fast-paced team play on transition started by a Darlington Nagbe’s run with the ball through the right-interior side; once Nagbe got to the final third, he connected with Dempsey through a triangle-play; after Dempsey gave the ball back to Nagbe, Yedlin helped him by driving through the wing to receive the pass. Yedlin sent the pass right away to Pulisic who only had to dive to score with his left foot.
Ten minutes later, USA closed the deal after another Pulisic’s goal. This time the play was initiated by Pulisic in the middle of the field. He drove the ball from left to right and pass it to Yedlin. Yedlin received, waited and passed it to Altidore, who was wide opened in the middle of the last third. Altidore sent a well-measured through-assist with his right foot to Pulisic. the 18-year-old sensation pushed the throttle very deep once he saw that Altidore was oriented to send the pass to the open space; Pulisic beat Kevan George on the run through the right side and send a finesse shot with his right foot.
A Pivotal Game Against Mexico
The USA is now in third place with seven points and have some balance in the hexagonal. Sunday will be the hardest task for this team. Mexico will be the first world-class team that the USA will face under the Arena’s second head-coaching tenure with the team. “El Tri” is currently the leader of the table with 13 points. The game will be at the mythical Estadio Azteca at 8:30 p.m.