To welcome Manchester City to Villa Park, the hosts set up rather defensively, with Paul Lambert putting his boys into a 5-3-2 formation in an attempt to grind out a point. And Aston Villa almost made it to the end of the first half without giving up a goal. Almost.
The hosts were likely feeling a bit flustered as Manchester City set up for their ninth corner of the match. They’d already needed to scramble a couple times to keep out the visitors, and Antonio Luna had just been forced to clear one off the line. This time, Karim El Ahmadi got his head on the corner, but couldn’t clear, sending it straight to Yaya Toure. The Ivorian reacted with lightning speed, flicking the ball through the legs of Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
While the Villa “defense” should be putting the American under less pressure, Guzan really should have done better there. He’ll be hoping a halftime chat from Lambert will talk down the young Villans’ nerves and allow them to get back in the match. Be sure to tune in to NBCSN or catch the second half action live online via NBC Sports Live Extra.
The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes is off to a flying start.
As it stands, the 3-0 halftime lead provided by Sebastian Lletget, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey has the Yanks up from sixth to fourth in the Hex table.
Sebastian Lletget scored a fifth minute goal to ease the tensions of the Avaya Stadium crowd in San Jose, though he’d leave the match with injury before the match was 20 minutes old.
Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal.
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Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.
Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.
It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.
What. A. Pass. Kid.
USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks, Cameron; Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.
Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′)
The United States starts to make amends for its 0-2 start to the final round of World Cup qualifying with a match against Honduras on Friday in San Jose.
Losses to Mexico and Costa Rica cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job and Bruce Arena will try things differently
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Most importantly for Arena, Geoff Cameron and Tim Howard are available this time around.
Cameron starts at right back, with John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez in the center of the back four. Jorge Villafana slots into the mix at left back.
Captain Michael Bradley will sit atop the midfield, with Darlington Nagbe, Sebastian Lletget, and Christian Pulisic in the midfield.
Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore are the forwards. Kickoff is set for 10:55 p.m. EDT from Avaya Stadium.
Minnesota United attacker Kevin Molino has given Trinidad and Tobago life in the race to win a spot at the 2018 World Cup.
Molino’s 37th minute goal gave hosts T&T a 1-0 lead against visiting Panama at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on Friday, and the Soca Warriors held on to win its first points of qualifying.
Panama had a Luis Tejada goal controversially ruled offside as Los Canaleros nearly pulled their fifth point of the Hex. Panama faces the USMNT on Tuesday in Panama City.
[ WATCH: Zaha scores wonder vs. Russia ]
Molino fooled long time LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo with a low shot across the body. The Panama backstop couldn’t get low enough or far enough with his dive to stop the shot.
The win has T&T in fifth place on the Hex table, behind Honduras on goal differential and three points ahead of the last place USMNT.
The U.S. needs a two-goal win to pass T&T, and a three-goal win to climb above Honduras.
Wilfried Zaha combined balance, deft touch, and breakneck speed to score his first international goal for the Ivory Coast.
With his side leading Russia 1-0 on Friday, the Crystal Palace winger worked his way through four defenders before burying his shot.
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Zaha especially fooled with Ilya Kutepov, a harsh cut nearly tipping both to the field.
He’s just 24, and it seems much longer ago that he made his failed move to Manchester United in 2013.
Failed may be a rough verb considering it all contributed to making him the player he is for Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast today.