Jozy Altidore

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MLS Snapshot: Altidore leads TFC past Impact, to brink of history

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The game in 100 words (or less): Having clinch the Supporters’ Shield two weeks ago, Toronto FC have but one point of pride for which to play the rest of the way: the league-record points total (currently 68 during the shootout era; 67 post-shootout). After knocking off the Montreal Impact, 1-0 on Sunday, Greg Vanney’s side is now level with the 1998 LA Galaxy on 68 points. Jozy Altidore, fresh off the heartbreak of Tuesday’s defeat to Trinidad and Tobago, scored the game’s only goal in the 16th minute to give the Reds an eighth win from their last 10 games as the regular season quickly comes to a close. Sebastian Giovinco had a slightly rougher afternoon, missing a pair of penalties just before halftime.

[ MORE: MLS at Week 33 — all about playoff places, positioning ]

Three moments that mattered

16′ — Altidore gets a lucky deflection, slots past Crepeau for 1-0 — No assist for Marky Delgado, as the ball came off a defender and fell into the path of Altidore, but it’s the thought that counts. As for Altidore, he needed one like this, and early.

45+1′ — Giovinco misses from the spot… twice — Giovinco banged his first penalty attempt off the inside of Crepeau’s right-hand post, only to be gifted a retry after the 23-year-old came off his line early. Giovinco hit the outside of the same post this time.

51′ — Cabrera hits both posts, Mancosu can’t finish the rebound — The odds of the ball somehow not crossing the goal line on this sequence are… well, quite low.

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Man of the match: Marky Delgado

Goalscorers: Altidore (16′)

Three keys for USMNT vs. Trinidad and Tobago

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Win, and they’re in.

That or a draw is what’s on the line for the U.S. Men’s National Team on Tuesday evening when it takes the field at Ato Bolden Stadium in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago. The USMNT is coming off a confidence-boosting 4-0 rout of Panama, but the squad discovered Monday afternoon things wouldn’t be easy in Trinidad and Tobago.

[ MORE: How will the USA line up against T&T? ]

Thanks to heavy rains recently, a natural “moat” of water separated the players from the locker room and the field, forcing them to improvise ways of getting over it. Perhaps trekking through the water will be a character-building exercise. Or it’s a reminder that in CONCACAF, nothing comes easy.

Trinidad and Tobago are coming off a 3-1 road defeat in Mexico, and while they’re eliminated from World Cup contention, they’re likely to try and score a big result against the U.S. on home turf.

With so much on the line, let’s take a look at three keys to victory for the USMNT over Trinidad and Tobago.

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Altidore, Pulisic feel “all the emotions” in quieting “wolves”

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The United States men’s national team, as much as they’d like you to believe otherwise, obviously heard and read plenty of the criticism of their past performances.

Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore were two heroes of Friday’s 4-0 World Cup hope-redeeming beatdown of Panama, and both admitted a readiness to loudly snap out of the funk caused by last month’s two-match, one-point mess in qualifying.

[ USMNT-PANAMA: Match recap | Player ratings | 3 things ]

Pulisic celebrated emphatically after scoring his eighth minute opener, and said on television that it was probably all part of a release.

“With all the pressures and every thing going on, to get that early goal the emotions came out of me,” Pulisic said.

“We weren’t worried,” Altidore added. “When you lose a couple of games, the wolves come out. But everyone was confident. It’s about getting back to the basics.”

Altidore was quick to credit the team for his big night, as he scored two goals and could’ve had a couple more.

“The team was good tonight. I’m a guy (that) when everybody’s on like that, it’s easy. Christian was superb. His ability to play in between the lines can cause so much trouble.”

Both men obviously pointed to a need to get all three points from Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday and leave nothing to chance when it comes to scoreboard watching.

Pulisic left the match limping, but said he’ll be fine after being kicked in the calf as part of Panama’s plan to constantly foul the hero.

USMNT 4-0 Panama: Thrash Unreal

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  • Altidore scores two
  • U.S. leads 3-0 at half
  • Pulisic goal, assist
  • U.S. moves third
  • Heads to T&T for Tues. finale

Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore spearheaded the United States men’s national team to an emphatic 4-0 World Cup qualifying win over Panama at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on Friday.

Altidore scored twice, Pulisic had a goal and an assist, and Bobby Wood also scored in the win.

[ MORE: 3 things | Player ratings ]

The win moves the U.S. to the precipice of qualifying for Russia. A win at Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday will clinch it, and a draw could do the trick depending on the Honduras-Costa Rica result on Saturday (The match was postponed due to weather).

[ WATCH: Pulisic scores | Feeds Jozy for 2-0 ]

Christian Pulisic, to no one’s surprise, supplied the first true threat with a dynamic dribble and pass to set up Jozy Altidore for a shot blocked inside the 18.

Bobby Wood was the next to tempt an opener, firing just wide from a Jozy Altidore pass.

Panama, however, engineered a big scare when Blas Perez worked Omar Gonzalez before ripping a shot wide.

Fortunately, that’s when Pulisic settled the nerves with an eighth minute goal, dancing onto a Altidore pass and playing Jaime Penedo like a fiddle before sliding a goal home from an acute angle. Wood started the play, and it was 1-0.

[ MORE: U-17 World Cup Day 1 roundup ]

Pulisic then earned a corner. Anibal Godoy bloodied Matt Besler with an elbow before the attempt. When it was served, Altidore hit a shot off the outside of the goal.

Then, Altidore and 2-0. It came, no surprise, off the boot of a Pulisic cross from the left. It was a sensational pass that swept around the backs and onto Altidore’s back post boot.

Paul Arriola cued Bobby Wood up for a long run on goal that was ended when Penedo stopped the Hamburg man’s shot.

Matt Besler was caught twice in a five-minute span, the second requiring an two handed save from Tim Howard.

Altidore should’ve made it 3-0 on the business end of a well-worked rush, but had his head down and didn’t see Penedo racing out to thwart his shot.

Wood then won — and aided — a penalty when fouled by Armando Cooper. In this giant spot, Altidore had the audacity to chip a panenka past a flying Penedo.

Panama’s second half philosophy was to batter Pulisic, and a distracted U.S. allowed some more chances to Los Canaleros. That includes Tim Howard’s stooping to collect a Roman Torres shot.

Pulisic left the match, healthy, for Dax McCarty, giving the youngster relief and the veteran his first appearance in a World Cup qualifier.

Arriola then threatened Penedo with a low shot in the 59th minute. Then Panama allowed Wood to dance through its defense and rip a shot that sailed wide in the 62nd minute.

Wood made it 4-0 in the 63rd minute, turning a quick pass from Arriola and clinically finishing past Penedo.

Penedo stopped Arriola after a delightful pass from McCarty — and a fortuitous trip from a Panama center back.

Player ratings: Pulisic, Altidore star as USMNT routs Panama

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Almost as badly as they needed a result and the accompanying three points, the U.S. national team needed to put forth a performance that once again inspired confidence — not only for USMNT fans, but for themselves as well.

Simply put, Bruce Arena’s bunch responded in a manner that left absolutely nothing to chance. Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore will (rightly) garner all the headlines, but they were far from the only standouts on Friday night…

[ MORE: Three things we learned ]

GK — Tim Howard: 6 — Asked to make only two saves on the night, but he did so with relative (to the 2014 game against Belgium, at least), and staked his claim to the no. 1 shirt after being selected ahead of Brad Guzan once again. It might just be a godsend the Colorado Rapids won’t sniff the MLS playoffs this year, as he’ll be 39 before next summer’s tournament kicks off.

RB — DeAndre Yedlin: 7 — So that’s what it’s like to have a right back who’s meant to be playing right back. I’ve defended Graham Zusi, Right Back, on a number of occasions (and I’ll continue to do so), but there’s no two ways about it: Yedlin, at age 24, is the right back of the present and the future. In a game that got a little too stretched for most Americans’ liking, his recovery speed snuffed out would-be chances before they could be taken on a number of occasions.

CB — Omar Gonzalez: 5 — I think Gonzalez could be good — I really do — in the right system which features a midfield that sits deep and clogs the space in front of him and beside him. Unfortunately for Omar, a midfield diamond where only one of the four actually plays centrally isn’t that. As an opposing attacker, face him up one-on-one, and enjoy.

CB — Matt Besler: 6 — Didn’t struggle as badly as Gonzalez, mostly because he’s more accustomed to playing in open space, but playing alongside Gonzalez really highlights his most problematic deficiency: a minor lack of pace and athleticism. A healthy Geoff Cameron should complement Besler very well, should the two partner one another between Tuesday and next summer.

LB — Jorge Villafaña: 5.5 — What’s to say about the left back position right now? Villafaña will continue to play there because no better option exists. If the midfield can remain solid in possession as they were in this one, limiting the direct counters thrown at him, he can pretty regularly avoid being a net-negative.

[ RECAP: USMNT routs Panama to boost World Cup dreams in a big way ]

CM — Michael Bradley: 6 — He was asked to do a lot in this one — run the entire middle third of the field as the only truly central midfielder — which he struggled to juggle at times in the first half, but that’s an impossible ask. He doesn’t need to be a 9/10 performer every night for the USMNT succeed. In fact, they need him to play a smaller part more frequently, and allow every one else to carry their own weight. He can still be Superman when it’s asked of him, but it’s not necessary all the time.

CM — Paul Arriola: 7 — Every team needs a Paul Arriola. The defensive cover he provided down the right side allowed Yedlin ample freedom to venture forward and stretch the field. His relentless pressing and winning of 50-50 balls makes for an uneasy evening for any opposition midfielder, and most importantly, takes that responsibility off Bradley’s plate, allowing him to sit deeper, read the game and dictate tempo.

CM — Darlington Nagbe: 6.5 — *checks boxscore* *checks boxscore again* Yup, Nagbe did indeed play on Friday. Nominally deployed as a shuttler in a diamond(-ish) midfield, it’s not the worst thing in the world to go unnoticed. He remains tidy with his passing and forever an outlet when Bradley is harried. You can make the case he’s “too talented” for such a role, but at this point in time, this is his role and he’s done it masterfully.

CM — Christian Pulisic: 9 — 10/10 ratings are reserved for hat tricks (or three goals and assists combined, at the very least), so the wonderboy checks in with a 9/10 for the parts he played in the first (scoring) and second (assisting) goals, plus the attention (and fouls) he now commands are truly game-changing for everyone else in the attacking third.

[ VIDEOS: Pulisic makes it 1-0 after 8′Pulisic to Altidore for no. 2 ]

FW — Bobby Wood: 7 — Wood’s partnership with Altidore has required some kinks be worked out over the course of the last year, but Friday’s game showed what so many thought possible for the duo: Altidore drops into midfield to 1) pulling center backs out of shape; 2) be the playmaker that he is, and Wood capitalizes on that space by running the channels until his lungs explode. Every goal that Wood scores is oh so deserved.

FW — Jozy Altidore: 9 — Also, no 10/10 when one of the three is a penalty. So sorry, Sir Josmer. I’m not really sure what more needs to be said. When healthy, and in the form of his life as he is right now, Altidore is an impossible nightmare.

SUB — Dax McCarty: 6.5 — Arena brought him on just before the hour mark to 1) save Pulisic’s life; 2) plant someone alongside Bradley at the base of midfield. McCarty accomplished a ton in his 33 minutes on the field, winning the ball back eight times, connecting just about every one of his passes, and threading an inch-perfect through ball to Arriola late in the game.

SUB — Clint Dempsey: 5.5 — The thought of Dempsey as a late-game super-sub next summer should provide all USMNT fans with a wealth of hope and excitement. Provided he remains accepting of the role, he will change one or two games in unbelievably meaningful ways.

SUB — Alejandro Bedoya: 5.5 — Only got 10 minutes, but continues to make his case as a lock-down central midfielder who offers more than most think when he surges forward.