USA forward Jozy Altidore (pictured) looks for his next move in a World Cup qualifier against visiting Trinidad & Tobago on September 6, 2016, in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo: John Dorton/isiphotos.com)
JACKSONVILLE, Florida -- Jozy Altidore scored twice within a three-minute span to break open a close game and lift the United States to a 4-0 victory over visiting Trinidad & Tobago in a fourth-round qualifier for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Tuesday at EverBank Field.
The Americans (4W-1D-1L, 13 points) ended up topping Group C and clinched a berth in the CONCACAF hexagonal, while T&T (3-2-1, 11) -- which had earlier sealed advancement -- finished in second place.
Goalkeeper Tim Howard made five saves for the U.S. to earn his 37th shutout.
After several near misses in the opening half, the host went ahead 1-0 in the 44th minute. Midfielder Sacha Kljestan gained possession inside the box of a hastily attempted clearance by T&T defender Khaleem Hyland and quickly poked the ball with his left foot into the net past goalkeeper Marvin Phillip from 12 yards for his sixth international goal.
Then Altidore took center stage.
First, the 26-year-old striker latched onto a Fabian Johnson feed at the top of the penalty area, firing a shot into the lower left corner in the 59th minute. The goal made Altidore the Americans’ all-time leading scorer in World Cup qualifying with 15 goals as he broke a mark shared with Clint Dempsey.
In the 62nd minute, Altidore then topped himself, sliding home a left-wing cross from Pulisic at the far post for a 3-0 advantage.
Second-half substitute Paul Arriola, who replaced midfielder Alejandro Bedoya five minutes earlier, closed out the scoring, converting a rebound of a Pulisic shot on the right side of the box in the 71st minute.
The U.S. will open final-round play on November 11 by hosting Mexico at a location to be determined. T&T will welcome either Costa Rica or Panama the same day.