Oh how quick the mood can change. Going into the game, I felt more nervousness than excitement, but five minutes into the game I felt like the US were the best team in the world. That performance last night was exactly what this team, nation, and fanbase needed from the first game under Bruce Arena.
Are you not entertained?
In the pregame show, the crew asked what they thought Bruce Arena would be saying to the team before they took the field, with a game of this magnitude only minutes away. The answer was: be aggressive, get the first tackle, first foul, first shot, first goal. This was what was stuck in my head all game. I chuckled when the US got the first tackle, when Jozy Altidore got the first foul I sat up. When Christian Pulisic and Altidore combined at the edge of the box and Sebastian Lletget finished to the back post, all of my faith was restored in this team.
Lleget was shortly forced off of the field because of a nasty tackle, but I thought his movement off the ball was great.
The US looked in control and the lead was doubled just about 18 minutes later. No one closed down on Michael Bradley and he put it past the Honduran keeper (who honestly was not in a great position). I think it was a savable ball, but here ya go:
The relationship between Bradley and Pulisic worried me at the beginning of this game. Yeah we had got the goal early, but until the second goal, balls were dropping in the middle of the field for Honduras. Romell Quiota was doing well and looked dangerous, Omar Gonzalez and John Brooks didn’t have the greatest communication, and Jorge Villafana was getting bumped off of every ball. But even with all that, the US still looked in control. Geoff Cameron played great in right back clearing almost every ball that came his way. And then magic happened:
Going into the half, I reflected on the last three minutes of the game. Honduras looked dangerous, and I was worried that coming out of the break the USMNT would settle, sit on a three-goal lead, and let Honduras come back and get a draw.
I was mistaken.
When they lined up to start the second half, the first thing I thought was, “wow we have all five attacking players at midfield right now.” They all moved as one and 15 seconds into the second half Christian Pulisic put the game away.
From here on out, it was the Clint Dempsey show, who finished the night with a hat trick and this wonderful strike:
Six goals and a fourth place position in the table. Suddenly the fear is gone and there is a swagger about American soccer again, and they did it all without a single corner kick.
Where has this been?
We knew that the team had this kind of talent, this kind of depth, and with the right mentality they could be this lethal, so why haven’t we seen this before? Because the team was thinking too much before. They had to figure out their roles during the game, think about positioning, worry about where to take space. In this game, everyone looked loose, they were all having fun, the positions were defined and none of the roles were foreign to anyone. It looked like a bunch of guys who knew what they were doing, and loving every second of it. The talent was always there someone just needed to put our guys where they belonged.
Panama is on Tuesday and another win would do wonders for the US, but more questions remain:
- Does Bruce keep the same line up and mentality?
- Is Sebastian Lletget’s ankle okay?
- John Brooks left the game due to dehydration, can he go in Panama?
- What about Clint Dempsey, does he start again?
- Does Jermaine Jones play?
If this were the former regime, I’d say that nothing would be the same, the formation on Tuesday would be a 5-2-2-1 or something crazy like that. But this being so new and Bruce’s first meaningful game in charge, I’d think it would look very similar to last night. Jones shouldn’t play, there is no spot for him. Alejandro Bedoya will do just fine if Sebastian Lletget can’t go. The scariest part is if John Brooks can’t play, but if it was just a matter of being dehydrated, he should be fine.
The next game will be telling. Can this team put up another dominating performance away from home? 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%.
I am sold on Pulisic, he is the real deal and should always play in the #10 role always. My Christian Pulisic Jersey will be here on Monday.