USA’s Pulisic double pushes T&T further off road to Russia; coach Lawrence blames individual errors

United States midfielder Christian Pulisic, right, prepares a shot ahead of defender Mekeil Williams during his national team’s 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in Colorado in FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifying on June 8, 2018. Pulisic, who plays for German Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund, scored both goals against T&T.

Christian Pulisic scored a second-half brace to give the United States an important 2-0 win over visitors Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday night in Commerce City, Denver, Colorado in FIFA 2018 Russia World Cup Qualifying.

The 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder scored twice in a ten-minute span in front of a sold-out crowd of 19,188 at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, seated some 5,223 feet above sea level, to give Bruce Arena’s side a boost in confidence ahead of Sunday’s visit to CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying leaders Mexico.

Mexico, with a 3-0 win over fifth-placed visitors Honduras at the Estadio Azteca last night, improved their place at the top to 13 points, five points ahead of Costa Rica who played to a goalless draw against now fourth-placed Panama.

The United States are now third, moving one point behind Costa Rica, while Trinidad and Tobago, who struck the post twice and had a goal disallowed for offside against the Americans, remain bottom of the Hex midway through the final round of CONCACAF qualifying. (See full schedule at the end of this article.)

The top three of the Hex qualifies for next year’s FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia, while the fourth-placed nation advances to a playoff against Asia’s fifth-place finishers.

2018 FIFAA World Cup Qualifying – CONCACAF Final Round standings

#

Team

GP

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

Pts.

1

Mexico

5

4

1

0

8

1

+7

13

2

Costa Rica

5

2

2

1

7

3

+4

8

3

USA

5

2

1

2

10

7

+3

7

4

Panama

5

1

2

1

2

2

0

6

5

Honduras

5

1

1

3

4

12

-8

4

6

Trinidad & Tobago

5

1

0

4

2

8

-6

3

Following an energetic -- but goalless first half -- Pulisic gave the hosts the breakthrough. A well-worked build-up between Darlington Nagbe and Clint Dempsey eventually saw DeAndre Yedlin pick out Pulisic with a short feed and the teenager slotted home his sixth international goal in the 52nd minute.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Nathan Lewis knocked in a right side Kevin Molino cross two minutes later, but to the relief of USA goalkeeper Tim Howard and his team the San Juan Jabloteh winger’s effort was ruled offside.

Pulisic then completed his double on 62 minutes with a composed finish past Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams.

Williams, who denied John Brooks, Jozy Altidore (twice) and Jorge Villafana in the first half, was hung out to dry by his defence. Yedlin, involved again, squared a pass to Altidore who spilt the T&T defence with an early feed for Pulisic to charge the box with Williams at his mercy, and the Dortmund star finished brilliantly at the near post to cushion the Americans 2-0.

“Our own individual errors cost us the two goals and the match,” conceded Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence after the match.

However the former Everton and Wigan Athletic assistant coach thought his side were well organised and felt the game was “a very close” one.

Kenwyne Jones and Carlos Edwards both saw first-half efforts rebound off the frame while Khaleem Hyland twice put Howard to the test.

“There was hardly any difference between both teams, especially in the first half,” continued Lawrence, whose next assignment is against Costa Rica on Tuesday.

“I think the altitude affected the tempo of the game; both teams were struggling with it. [But] our individual errors is probably what cost us; us in possession giving away the ball unnecessarily which left us exposed and the U.S. took advantage of it.”

U.S. head coach Bruce Arena admitted it was not an easy contest for his side.

“I think Trinidad (and Tobago) was well-prepared for the match, had a good tactical game and played well. On the other hand we played solid for ninety minutes,” said the United States coach.

Arena confessed that he was frustrated heading into the break. He said his side had made mistakes which included giving the visitors too much room at times as well as missed some scoring opportunities. But in the end he credited the double by Pulisic but also had praise for T&T and goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams on a terrific effort.

CONCACAF Final Round – FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifying
(Thursday June 8, 2017)
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Denver, Colorado
USA 2 (Christian Pulisic 52’, 62’) vs Trinidad and Tobago 0

Teams at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Denver, Colorado

United States: 1.Tim Howard (GK), 2.Deandre Yedlin, 4.Michael Bradley (Capt.), 6,John Brooks, 8.Clint Dempsey, 10.Christian Pulisic, 15.Darlington Nagbe, 17.Jozy Altidore (9.Bobby Wood 83rd minute), 20.Geoff Cameron, 21.Jorge Villafana, 23.Fabian Johnson (11.Alejandro Bedoya 74th minute).

Unused substitutes: 12.Brad Guzman (GK), 22.Nick Rimando (GK), 3.Omar Gonzalez, 5.Tim Ream, 7.DaMarcus Beasley, 13.Dax McCarty, 14.Paul Arriola, 16.Kellyn Acosta, 18.Jordan Morris, 19.Graham Zusi.

Coach: Bruce Arena    

Trinidad and Tobago: 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK), 3.Joevin Jones (12.Shahdon Winchester 68th minute), 4.Sheldon Bateau, 5.Daneil Cyrus, 7.Nathan Lewis, 8.Khaleem Hyland (23.Leston Paul 76th minute), 9.Kenwyne Jones (Capt.) (20.Jamille Boatswain 82nd minute), 10.Kevin Molino, 11.Carlos Edwards, 17.Mekeil Williams, 19.Kevan George.

Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 2.Aubrey David, 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 13.Hughtun Hector, 14.Andre Boucaud, 15.Curtis Gonzales, 16.Alvin Jones, 18.Hashim Arcia, 22.Adrian Foncette (GK).

Coach: Dennis Lawrence

Referee: Oscar Moncada (Honduras)
Assistant Referee 1: Christian Ramirez (Honduras)
Assistant Referee 2: Melvyn Cruz (Honduras)
Fourth Official: Raul Castro (Honduras)

CONCACAF Final Round (Hexagonal) World Cup 2018 qualifying results and upcoming fixtures
November 11, 2016
Honduras 0 vs Panama 1
Trinidad & Tobago 0 vs Costa Rica 2
USA 1 vs Mexico 2

November 15, 2016
Honduras 3 vs Trinidad & Tobago 1
Costa Rica 4 vs USA 0
Panama 0 vs Mexico 0

March 24, 2017
Trinidad & Tobago 1 vs Panama 0
Mexico 2 vs Costa Rica 0
USA 6 vs Honduras 0

March 28, 2017
Honduras 1 vs Costa Rica 1
Trinidad & Tobago 0 vs Mexico 1
Panama 1 vs USA 1

Upcoming qualifiers
June 9, 2017
USA 2 vs Trinidad & Tobago 0, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Colorado
Costa Rica 0 vs Panama 0, at Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, San Jose
Mexico 3 vs Honduras 0, Estadio Azteca

June 11, 2017
Mexico vs USA, Estadio Azteca

June 13, 2017
Panama vs Honduras, at Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City
Costa Rica vs Trinidad & Tobago, at Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, San Jose

September 1, 2017
USA vs Costa Rica, venue TBD
Mexico vs Panama, venue TBD
Trinidad & Tobago vs Honduras, at Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain

September 5, 2017
Honduras vs USA, at Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano, San Pedro Sula
Panama vs Trinidad & Tobago, at Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City
Costa Rica vs Mexico,at Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, San Jose

October 6, 2017
USA vs Panama, venue TBD
Costa Rica vs Honduras, at Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, San Jose
Mexico vs Trinidad & Tobago, venue TBD

October 10, 2017
Trinidad & Tobago
 vs USA, at Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain
Panama vs Costa Rica, at Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City
Honduras vs Mexico, at Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano, San Pedro Sula