The United States Men’s National Team had not gotten off to a great start in World Cup qualification.
After two games in “The Hex,” the group play stage that determines which three teams from CONCACAF will automatically qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the USMNT was winless, with a home loss to rival Mexico and an ugly 4-0 drubbing at the hands (or, feet rather) of Costa Rica.
But as of late, the USMNT has looked in better form, thanks in no small part to their new number 10, wunderkind Christian Pulisic, who on Thursday night helped the United States secure a crucial three points with a win over Trinidad and Tobago.
After a frustrating opening 45 minutes that left the game tied at half, Pulisic broke through with the help from a nifty play in midfield between Darlington Nagbe and Clint Dempsey and a well placed centering pass from DeAndre Yedlin.
Just ten minutes later, Pulisic struck again. After breaking a run on the right side of the goal, Jozy Altidore found him with a through ball which Pulisic was able to sneak by the nearside of the goalkeeper.
The two goals would be all the team would need, finishing the 90 minutes with a clean sheet and three points closer to a World Cup birth.
The USMNT has had their share of great leaders in its recent history, with Clint Dempsey coming through in big moments in the 2014 World Cup and netting seven in the 2015 Gold Cup. And there was London Donovan giving the national team new life again and again, including an unforgettable stoppage time goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup that took the team from elimination to winning their group.
Christian Pulisic has the potential to surpass the both of them.
At just 18 years old, he’s already scored seven goals in international play and has scored or assisted on seven of the team’s last eight goals in competition. Watching him play, he’s visibly confident and almost always discernible as the most talented player on the field, even to casual fans. He carries himself with a poise and swagger that, with a little guidance from his predecessors and a confident team building around him, makes you believe he could carry the United States to their first World Cup title.
For now though, the USMNT still has work to do to qualify for Russia in 2018, with their biggest test of The Hex coming on Sunday when they head to Azteca Stadium in Mexico City to face a Mexico side that currently sits at the top of the table. The Americans have only won one game at Azteca Stadium, a 1-0 victory in a 2012 friendly, but Pulisic is confident.
“It’s gonna be a tough one down there in Mexico,” said Pulisic after the game on Thursday. “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.”
It will be the biggest test yet for America’s new star. Let’s hope he’s up to the challenge.
The game kicks off at 8:30 p.m. EST on Sunday on FS1.
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