The United States Men’s National Team had one main objective as they faced Honduras in their third match of the Hex on Friday night: to Get 3, a marketing slogan turned game-plan. Clint Dempsey had them covered. With three gorgeous goals, the veteran forward led the United States to a dominant 6-0 victory, the highest-scoring competitive game ever held at the San Jose Earthquakes’ Avaya Stadium.
Though the name of new head coach and former LA Galaxy man Bruce Arena was booed by the local San Jose crowd at kickoff, he earned the full support of the crowd by their sixth goal. The comprehensive dismantling of Honduras shut the door on two humiliating qualifying defeats to Mexico and Costa Rica in Jürgen Klinsmann’s final games in charge of the national team and heralded a fresh beginning. Though much criticism has been leveled at the hiring of Arena, a known quantity given his eight years in charge of the national team from 2008 to 2016, this was exactly the type of victory he was brought in to achieve.
Despite the USMNT’s past struggles, there was an optimistic mood at Avaya from the onset. Spontaneous chants of “U-S-A” erupted in the stands and concourses, a festive atmosphere stoked by the stadium DJ and reciprocated by the noticeable presence of Honduras fans decked in flags.
The United States fed off that energy on the field and then some, scoring three goals in the opening half hour alone. Eighteen-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic orchestrated USA’s first turn, making an incisive run through Honduras’ back-line onto Jozy Altidore’s pass. Although his original shot was blocked, wide midfielder Sebastian Lleget was bounding down the wing to bury the rebound.
Coach Arena compared Pulisic to Landon Donovan in the pre-match buildup, though his impressive performances for the national team and Champions League success with Dortmund suggest the youngster has already surpassed Donovan in some regards.
Pulisic functioned brilliantly alongside Dempsey and Altidore up top, and with Darlington Nagbe and Lleget on the wings, Michael Bradley was the lynchpin in the midfield. Despite the presence of many (rather vocal) critics in the crowd, Bradley doubled USA’s lead in the twenty-seventh minute, embarking on a mazy run before burying a low finish from twenty yards out.
Dempsey made it three five minutes later, outmuscling his defender and volleying into the top corner on the end of Pulisic’s audacious chip.
Heading into halftime three goals down, Honduras attempted to pick up the pace and high press the Quakes in the second half. It didn’t work. Pulisic finished from Altidore’s pass seconds into the half to make it four and Dempsey buried the fifth two minutes later.
His hat-trick came in the fifty-fourth minute, a stunning free-kick from twenty-five yards that bent up, over the wall, across goal and into the back of the net.
It was utter annihilation by the end of the ninety minutes, a most propitious beginning to Arena’s tenure as coach and cathartic experience for national team fans. Perhaps the USMNT should play at Avaya Stadium more often.