- Bobby Wood (28')
- Matt Besler (32')
- Jozy Altidore (43' Pen)
- Christian Pulisic (71', 90'+2')
- Sacha Kljestan (78')
The United States comfortably avoided embarrassment as it took a small but necessary step towards World Cup qualification on Friday, beating St. Vincent and the Grenadines 6-0 in Kingstown.
Victory was, as it should have been, a formality, part of the process that must be completed in exchange for a shot at competing in the biggest tournament in soccer.
Goals from Bobby Wood, Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic (twice) and Sacha Kljestan sealed the points and meant that regardless of the result later on Friday between Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala, one more win put would put the Americans into the final six-team qualifier that will send at least three teams to the World Cup in 2018.
On Tuesday, the U.S. will host T+T in Jacksonville, Fla., with a victory enough to top the group and provide a welcome confidence boost before competition gets tougher over the next year and change.
The U.S. is still some way from being a powerhouse soccer nation but in the CONCACAF region from which it must qualify to reach World Cups, it is a veritable giant.
St. Vincent is a tiny nation with a population smaller than Olathe, Ks., and the center of the field was scuffed by the spikes of cricket players. It is that sport which is both the most popular on the island and the usual usage for the little stadium at Arnos Vale that staged the game.
It was the sort of fixture, in an unfamiliar setting and against a motivated, underdog opponent, that has a habit of causing difficulty. To ease the nerves an early goal is the most useful tonic of all, and the Americans got one at an ideal time.
Wood curled in an accurate effort from just outside the penalty area to open the scoring -- and the floodgates -- after 28 minutes. Besler added a second four minutes later and suddenly all the tension was lifted, with the Sporting Kansas City defender celebrating both his first international goal and the birth of his first child by jovially stuffing the ball under his jersey.
A third came before half-time, when Wood was clumsily hacked down in the penalty area and Altidore made no mistake from the spot, before substitutes Pulisic and Kljestan capitalized on the home team's tiring back line late. Pulisic, the Germany-based youngster, beautifully took the ball in his stride before slotting it home after 71 minutes, then capped off the resounding victory by firing in from outside the box deep into injury time.
It is hard to read much into games against weaker opposition, and with St. Vincent tied for 156th in the world rankings there was neither a need nor an appetite for overt celebrations.
However, Pulisic's continued development was a positive sign, as was the squad's ability to cope easily without five regular starters due to a combination of injury and suspension.