Christian Pulisic scored twice to give the United States Men’s National Team a vital 2-0 win against Trinidad and Tobago in a must-win World Cup qualifier at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce, Colorado on Thursday.
The 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward netted two goals in the second half after a frustrating first period that saw the likes of Clint Dempsey, John Brooks and Jozy Altidore all come close for the hosts. Pulisic also came close in the first half, only to blast an effort over the crossbar just before the half hour mark.
Trinidad did an admirable job of minimizing U.S. chances early on, and nearly took the lead when Kenwyne Jones rocketed a header off Tim Howard’s crossbar. The U.S. keeper was also forced into action late in the half, palming away a Khaleem Hyland shot just three minutes before the break.
The U.S. came roaring out in the second half, and it took just seven minutes to break the deadlock. Darlington Nagbe played a one-two with Dempsey and laid the ball off for DeAndre Yedlin. The Newcastle fullback slid the ball into the path of the onrushing Pulisic, who made no mistake slotting the ball in past T&T keeper Jan Michael Williams from point-blank range.
Pulisic doubled the U.S. lead just 10 minutes later, finishing off a counterattacking move that began when he received the ball from Geoff Cameron and played it to Fabian Johnson, who slide a pass to Altidore. The burly striker returned the ball to Pulisic, who accelerated beyond the T&T defense and swung a right-footed shot between the near post and a diving Williams to make it 2-0.
The goal took the teenage sensation’s total goal-tally for the U.S. to seven, five of which have come in World Cup qualifiers. The Dortmund man, who last year, became the youngest foreigner to score in the Bundesliga, is one of the brightest lights for a U.S. team that’s currently in the process of rediscovering its identity after the departure of coach Jurgen Klinsmann late last year.
It’s no understatement to say that Pulisic, who also scored for Dortmund in the Champions League against Benfica this season, has the potential to be a paradigm shifting player for the U.S.
The win over the Soca Boys saw the U.S. climb into third in the CONCACAF standings heading into Sunday’s clash at the Azteca Stadium with Mexico.
A fairly routine home win over Trinidad is one thing, but facing a red-hot El Tri side that’s already on the verge of clinching qualification to Russia 2018 at the Azteca is another. Juan Carlos Osorio’s Mexico side remains undefeated in World Cup qualifying and the U.S. has only won at the Azteca once – a 1-0 win in a friendly back in 2012. In qualifying, the best the Yanks have managed at the Azteca are a pair of draws.
But none of that matters to Pulisic.
“It’s gonna be a tough one down there in Mexico,” said Pulisic to Fox Sports. “But we really want some revenge on them from when they got us earlier this year. So we’re really confident going into that game. We’re going to come out with a win there, too.”
Mexico defeated the U.S. 2-1 last November in Columbus, Ohio, in the match that precipitated Klinsmann getting the sack and Arena being reinstated as manager. Osorio has brought a certain unity to an often-fractious national team, recalling and revitalizing players like Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela – two players that were left out of last summer’s Copa America squad – to the team.
In addition to Dos Santos and Vela, the team the U.S. will face Sunday will contain the likes of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Oribe Peralta, and Jonathon Dos Santos, brother of Giovani. It’s a tough task for the U.S., Pulisic’s brashness aside, facing the best team in the region in their home stadium; a formidable cauldron of intensity that will be filled with nearly 100,000 El Tri supporters, ready to rain contentiousness down on the Americans.
In Mexico, they’ve already seized on Pulisic’s remarks and there’s little doubt that the players and the fans will be waiting for the talented and confident young American prospect, who now looks to be very much the way forward for the U.S.
But based on what we’ve seen from him so far, Pulisic will be ready for them as well.
Watch the United States vs. Mexico in World Cup qualifying, this Sunday, June 11 at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.