The USMNT went abroad for a World Cup qualifier on Friday against St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The team was able to thrash the minnows by a score of 6-0, with generally solid performances all around. It's a bit difficult to take such lopsided games seriously when looking at how players in the talent pool are doing. However, a few players really stood out, while a few must be feeling a little bit more anxious about their place in the squad. Here's whose stock went up and whose stock went down.
Christian Pulisic is the greatest, most talented player to ever kick a ball and he will single-handedly guide the USMNT to more triumph than the world has ever seen like a majestic eagle descending from the heavens, swooping down and...
Whoa there, sorry about that. I dropped my guard for just a moment and, what do you know, the hype train just raced away from.
In all honesty, the teenager had a great game. He came on as a sub in the 65th minute and immediately helped turn up the tempo. Granted, this is St. Vincent and the Grenadines we are talking about, and the USMNT was already leading by 3 goals. But, nevertheless, Pulisic had a big influence on the game. You can see it most clearly by the fact that he scored two goals while assisting one in between. The first came off a sublime touch in front of goal while the second was a gorgeous curler. That kind of technique and technical proficiency will shine against any team, no matter if they are a small Caribbean nation, or a World Cup winner.
His was one of those names that fans just wished would actually get a call-up. The kind of player who's managed to shine in league play, but can't seem to be anywhere near the radar of the national team's manager. Even Sacha Kljestan thought it was a prank when he got called up. But it happened. Klinsmann brought Kljestan back to the national team fold and it paid of in a big way. You know those goals and assists from Pulisic that I mentioned above? Yeah, Kljestan was the partner in crime for all of them. He came on in the 65th and got two assists and a goal, all from the Dortmund wunderkind. The USMNT has sorely needed a creative spark to help get the attack going. Kljestan has had a rocky relationship with the national team. He was part of the team that qualified for the 2010 World Cup under Bob Bradley, but didn't make the trip to South Africa. Klinsmann gave him a look at the start of his time in the manager's chair, but dropped him well before the world cup. This, of course, was in spite of Kljestan's solid play with the notable Belgian side, Anderlecht. Now, thanks to a few absences, Kljestan's back. And it looks like he might be here to stay.
Altidore missed out of the Copa America Centennario with a hamstring injury, so this match served as his return to the USMNT. He stepped out onto the field, this time as captain, with a lot of expectations on his shoulders. Even with all that, Jozy put in a solid performance. He managed to score the third of the match off a penalty, moving him into third on the list of all-time highest USMNT scorers. But what really stood out was Altidore's movement and willingness to get on the ball. Jozy saw a hole in midfield and chose to drop in deep. From there, he was able to have an influence on the match, including in the build up for the opener. Even with players like Bobby Wood coming into the side and showing well, It's good to see Altidore back in the fold and performing.
Jones was called into the USMNT camp but missed out due to an injury that's been nagging him for some time now. With Jones out and Bradley suspended, Klinsmann put in Bedoya and Beckerman. However, it was really Kljestan who shined in this performance. All of a sudden, Jones has competition for the role of that midfield spot, either as a partner in a two-man set up, or as the most advanced player. Jones offers grit and physicality, but Kljestan offers something that the USMNT needs more: creativity. With Jones' last moments for the Stars and Stripes coming in the form of a long walk off the field following a red card, the Colorado Rapids man needed a moment to cast a better taste in regards to the national team. With his advancing age and the emergence of alternative options, Jones could be feeling a squeeze on his national team spot.
Before Pulisic, Nagbe was the most hyped player coming into the national team. And, well, it's not been quite what we were expecting. It's not his fault. Yeah, his form has gone down and now his club, the Portland Timbers, are struggling. But we still expected Nagbe to be a contributor to the national team. But he didn't get minutes on Friday, against the worst team the USMNT is going to play perhaps until the qualifiers for the next World Cup begin. The USMNT were up by three at half-time and Klinsmann still didn't put him in. I personally think Nagbe ought to be getting a lot more game time, but missing out on these minutes cannot feel good.
Kyle Beckerman is still starting over him. Ouch.