The United States men's national team continues its quest to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and 18-year-old Christian Pulisic continues to prove that even at his young age, he's far and away the best player on the squad.
The USMNT played a crucial World Cup qualifier with Trinidad and Tobago Thursday evening in Denver. With one home loss to its name already in the hexagonal round of qualifying, any other result besides a win would've been a significant blow to the team's chances of making it to Russia 2018. After a scoreless first 45 minutes, things were looking shaky for the Americans. But two goals in a 10-minute span in the second half gave the U.S. a 2-0 win going into a huge qualifier against Mexico in Mexico City on Sunday.
Pulisic's brace is the continuation of a fantastic scoring run for the youngster in international matches. With the two on Thursday, he now has four goals in his last four matches, and seven total for the USMNT. That's a crazy impressive number for an 18-year-old, and made even more so when you consider his first goal in an American shirt came just over a year ago, in May 2016, and the six other have all come since September 2016. Just as impressive, if not more, he's scored or assisted on seven of the USMNT's last eight goals. He's the Everything Man for American soccer right now, and the best hope at getting a result in Mexico City.
There were worries for the U.S. in the first half on Thursday. The Americans came out of the gate with a distinct lack of energy. There's no doubt the players were already looking ahead to that crucial showdown with Mexico at the Azteca -- as was every USMNT fan -- and who could blame them? It's against an archrival and has shaped up to be the most important USMNT match of 2017.
While the U.S. lacked energy, T&T was showing it. Kenwyne Jones had one chance that could have easily give his side a 1-0 lead and created panic among the ranks of U.S. fans.
But the Yanks made it out of the first 45 without conceding, and from there they hit the gas. Seven minutes into the second half, Pulisic put the USMNT a goal to the good via a cross from Deandre Yedlin. It was a true poacher's goal. The Borussia Dortmund man darted into the box to slide into Yedlin's cross after it beat the keeper.
Michael Bradley, Darlington Nagbe, and Yedlin all deserve plaudits on the opener. Bradley created a turnover in midfield. Yedlin started the break with a quick pass out of the flanks -- not to mention his assist -- and Nagbe beat his man on the run and laid off to Clint Dempsey to open up the play in the final third. It was a fantastic piece of teamwork.
Pulisic's second also showed some fine combination play. But the difference here was that Pulisic both started and finished the move that led to the 2-0 lead.
Driving from the U.S.'s own half, Pulisic laid a ball off to Yedlin on his right. Yedlin centered it to Jozy Altidore who applied a fine first touch pass over the top back to Pulisic. With the wonderteen in on goal, there was little doubt he would double the lead and add another to his ever-mounting international goal tally.
The win gives U.S. seven points in the hexagonal table, and takes the pressure out of the match with Mexico at the Azteca. At this point, you have to feel good about the Yanks' chances of making the World Cup, which is quite a turnaround from the end of Jurgen Klinsmann's run to now.
With nothing to lose in Mexico City, you have to figure the U.S. is prepared to put their best foot forward at the Azteca. Pulisic is in fantastic form, and if he can score again on Sunday, it will give the Americans a fantastic chance to come away with three points. You may think his legend is large now, but if he can lead the U.S. to an unbelievable upset of El Tri on Mexican soil, he'll already have a spot locked in with the greats of American soccer.
He's just that good.
Cy Brown writes about soccer and other stuff for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @CEPBrown.