The U.S. national team’s quest to qualify for its eighth straight World Cup, the 2018 tournament in Russia, got off to a rip-roaring start Friday night — but only after going a goal down very early on to CONCACAF minnows St. Vincent and the Grenadines — with a 6-1 come-from-behind victory in St. Louis (full highlights below).
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St. Vincent and the Grenadines took their early through Oalex Anderson, a striker for Seattle Sounders II, the MLS club’s USL side. Anderson won the ball 30 yards from goal, ran at the USMNT’s defense, cut inside past DeAndre Yedlin and rifled a right-footed shot inside the far post for the most improbable of early leads.
The Americans drew level six minutes later, when Michael Bradley played Yedlin toward the end line with a simple through ball; Yedlin lifted a delicate cross to the near post, where Bobby Wood was waiting and applied the looping, headed finish over the outstretched goalkeeper, Winslow McDowall. The goal was the first of Wood’s international career as a starter, and the first he has ever scored before the 88th minute.
Wood very nearly gave the USMNT its first lead in the 16th minute after Fabian Johnson slipped a through ball to Wood inside the St. Vincent and the Grenadines penalty area, but Wood’s eventual strike, a floated effort toward the far post, sailed wide of the post.
It was Johnson who gave the USMNT its first lead of WCQ in the 29th minute. The full back-turned-winger sent in a right-footed free kick from just outside of the penalty area and received a favorable deflection from a defender in the wall, wrong-footing McDowall as the ball found net at the far post.
Two minutes later, Jozy Altidore made it 3-1 to the USMNT with a simple header from three yards out. Jermaine Jones flicked on Johnson’s corner kick from the near post to the far post, where Altidore was waiting, completely unmarked. The Toronto FC striker, still just 26 years old, attacked the floating ball with purpose and bagged the ninth WCQ goal of his international career (30 total).
It was the same corner-kick routine that made the score 3-1, used to make the score 4-1 six minutes after halftime. Johnson’s corner kick found Wood at the near port, Wood flicked the ball on and this time it was Geoff Cameron waiting at the back post to head home for his third international goal and his first in WCQ.
Gyasi Zardes made it 5-1 with his third career international goal in the 58th minute. Altidore ran at the opposing defense and played a through ball for Zardes, who cut inside from the right wing and fired low and just inside the far post.
Altidore was the beneficiary of a wicked deflection in the 74th minute to make the score 6-1, but it was the build-up through Zardes, Jones and Altidore that impressed the most. Zardes and Jones played a quick one-two at the top of the penalty area, which then freed Altidore a bit deeper in the box. Altidore faked one way and went the other, rifling his shot off of a defender and into the back of the net.
The USMNT will continue its campaign to qualify for the 2018 World Cup on Tuesday, when they play away to Trinidad and Tobago, who kicked off their bid to qualify Friday night away to Guatemala.