The U.S. had quite the opportunity on Friday to boosts its chances of advancing in World Cup Qualifying, and it boosted them greatly. Behind a goal surge in the first half, the U.S. beat St. Vincent and the Grenadines 6-0 on the road to put one foot into the next round.
Bobby Wood, Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore all struck in the opening half as the U.S. overcame a slow opening 20 minutes to secure three points.
Battling with Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala for two spots in the next round, the win sees the U.S. stay in second in the Group C standings with a three-point lead over Guatemala. A draw on Tuesday will see the U.S. advance to the hexagonal.
In Friday's match, Wood starred as he bagged a brilliant strike before Besler scored from close and Altidore fired home from the penalty kick spot all in a 15-minute span to put this one away.
In the second half, St. Vincent and had a couple of goals correctly ruled out as the U.S. controlled possession and got goals from substitutes Christian Pulisic (2) and Sacha Kljestan to complete the lopsided scoreline.
Here are three things to know about the blowout win.
1. It was a fine day for Matt Besler
The Sporting Kansas City man had a great Friday. First, St. Vincent seems like a pretty sweet, tropical place to be. But that wasn't even the best. He scored his first international goal. But wait, that wasn't the best either. His daughter was born on Friday (congrats to him). Now that's a full, awesome day. Meanwhile, most American Fridays were probably spent stuck in an office wondering if that chicken in the fridge from three days ago is still edible.
2. The team did well without star Clint Dempsey
Clint Dempsey missed the match with his irregular heartbeat condition, but the U.S. didn't miss a step. The movement in attack was fluid, Bobby Wood worked well with Altidore and the Americans did what they wanted. Now, we have to remember this isn't a strong opponent, but it is a result that gives the team confidence ahead of the next match, with the attack in form.
3. Guzan did his job, now can Tim Howard?
Brad Guzan kept the clean sheet, but he wasn't involved much. He did his job though, being attentive on crosses and coming out well when St. Vincent had a couple looks from close. Now, can Tim Howard do the same? Jurgen Klinsmann said that Howard will start the Trinidad and Tobago match on Tuesday, where the U.S. can cement its spot in the hexagonal. I'm not a fan of rotating goalkeepers, but Klinsi certainly is. We will see if he made the right choice.
Relive the match with our live blog below.
What's at stake: Three points in the fourth round of qualifying.
How things stand: Here's a look at the standings. The top two after six games advance to the fifth round of qualifying. The U.S. is in good shape, but anything but a win here would put some pressure on the team before Tuesday's final match against Trinidad and Tobago.
A look at CONCACAF Group C ahead of USMNT vs. St. V&G. pic.twitter.com/Nu9jsHp9pY— CBS Sports Soccer (@CBSSportsSoccer) September 1, 2016
How important is this game? Look at it this way -- the U.S. boosts its chances of advancing incredibly with a win. A draw brings the pressure, and a loss would be the most embarrassing result in U.S. soccer history.
Who is missing? The U.S. is without arguably its two best players for this match. Clint Dempsey (irregular heartbeat) and John Brooks (back) will both miss the two matches over the next four days, dealing a big blow to the team's overall quality. Dempsey has been the nation's best player over the last few years and Brooks is a towering central defender who plays smart and is physical. Midfielder Jermaine Jones is also out. It isn't a full-strength USMNT, but it still has more than enough to win comfortably.
Goalkeeper situation: It seemed as if this would Brad Guzan's team moving forward. Well ... Jurgen Klinsmann went with him at the Copa America and will go with him in this one, but longtime starter Tim Howard will start the team's game on Tuesday. A goalkeeper platoon.
What the U.S has to do to win: Look, this team the U.S. is playing isn't much. It should be a walk in the park (or on the island). The Vincy Heat (yes, that is their nickname) are ranked No. 156 in the world. That means teams like India, Aruba, Lesotho, Dominican Republic and Madagascar are ahead of them. An average performance for the U.S. should be enough to win comfortably. Remember, these teams played earlier in qualifying, with the Americans winning 6-1 despite allowing the opening goal.
What St. Vincent has to do to win: Play the best game it has ever played and see the U.S. play sloppy as can be.
Predicted USMNT starting XI: Guzan; Johnson, Gonzalez, Besler, Yedlin; Bradley, Bedoya, Zusi; Altidore, Wood, Nagbe.
Prediction: U.S. 4, St. Vincent and the Grenadines 0.