USA's Clint Dempsey (pictured) celebrates after scoring against visiting Honduras in a World Cup qualifier on March 24, 2017, in San Jose, California. (Photo: John Todd/isiphotos.com)
SAN JOSE, California – Clint Dempsey scored three goals and the United States (1W-0D-2L, 3 points) moved from last to fourth place in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a 6-0 win over visiting Honduras (1-0-2, 3) on Friday night at Avaya Stadium.
The victory was the Americans’ first in Hexagonal play after opening with losses to Mexico (2-1, home) and Costa Rica (4-0, away), marking head coach Bruce Arena’s first competitive match since he replaced Jurgen Klinsmann last November. Arena is in his second spell in charge of the national team, previously guiding the U.S. to a pair of CONCACAF Gold Cup titles (2002, 2005) and quarterfinal finish in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Midfielder Christian Pulisic was outstanding for the U.S., making it 4-0 in the 46th minute with his third goal of the qualifying campaign and having a hand in three others, including Sebastian Lletget’s opener.
In the fifth minute, the Borussia Dortmund star -- just 18-year-old -- had an effort blocked by Honduras goalkeeper Donis Escober, but the ball fell to Lletget for an easy tap-in at the right post.
Michael Bradley made it 2-0 the host in the 27th minute, striking from 25-yards out with his left foot for his 16th-career international goal.
It was a night to remember for Dempsey, who competed in his first international match after suffering from an irregular heartbeat last year. The 34-year-old's performance gave him five goals in his last two games against the Hondurans.
Dempsey's first came in the 32nd minute, when Pulisic gently lifted a splendid pass into his path and -- under pressure from Henry Figueroa -- the forward took the ball off his right shoulder and chopped a rising shot inside the top right corner.
From within 12 seconds of the second-half kickoff, Pulisic started and finished the fourth goal, ultimately finishing with his right foot from 13 yards off a Jozy Altidore feed.
Three minutes later, the advantage was extended to 5-0. Pulisic found Dempsey racing down the middle with a perfectly weighted through ball. In order to deceive the defense, Dempsey cleverly let the pass run past him, before rounding Escober to strike from seven-yards out.
Dempsey completed his second hat-trick in the 54th minute, drilling a right-footed free kick inside the top left corner to put an exclamation mark on the scoreline.
Two of Arena’s starters left the match with injuries. Lletget departed in the 18th minute with an apparent ankle issue following an Ever Alvarado tackle, while defender John Brooks went down to the ground after making a pass and was substituted in the 69th minute.
Next up on March 28, 2017
Honduras: home v Costa Rica
USA: away v Panama
NOTES: Dempsey now has 55 goals for the U.S., two short of equaling Landon Donovan’s team record ... Dempsey moved ahead of Altidore into first on the USA's all-time World Cup Qualifying goals list with 17 ... Dempsey's first U.S. hat-trick came in a 6-0 win over Cuba in a CONCACAF Gold Cup match on July 18, 2015 ... Lletget's goal was his first for the U.S. in his WCQ debut.