Dempsey grabs hat-trick as USA hammer Honduras 6-0

Dempsey grabs hat-trick as USA hammer Honduras 6-0

That bar, it turned out, was set a tad low.

They got everything they needed and then some, with the attacking duo of Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic starring en route to an incredible 6-0 win in San Jose that vastly improved the USMNT's qualifying outlook.

"It was a long time ago", Bruce Arena told FIFA.com, in a trademark deadpan, about his one and only cap for the United States national team.

Dempsey was next up for the USA, settling a cheeky Pulisic chip over the top of the Honduras defense and fired home to give his team a three-goal cushion after 45 minutes. With a score of 6-0, the largest goal margin in U.S. It was the 34-year-old's fifth career hat-trick for the U.S. MNT, and his second in World Cup qualifying.

The USMNT (0-2-0, 0 pts) will play their first significant match under Bruce Arena's second tenure with the team after replacing Jurgen Klinsmann who was sacked after the two qualifying losses late previous year.

The hard economic times have meant that many Hondurans have begun to emigrate north to Mexico and the United States, as well as south to Costa Rica. The U.S. would need wins at Honduras, at Panama, and at Trinidad & Tobago while keeping it clean at home.

Villafana and Lletget were making their World Cup qualifying debuts. His first qualifier in charge could not have gone better.

US captain Michael Bradley (4). He saw the United States go from total outliers, a country with little pedigree or interest in the world's game, to personally guiding them to within inches of a spot in the semi-finals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™. Only one of those games, a qualification match during the last cycle, did the US lose.

"I'm more comfortable in center midfield, but I've played many, many times out wide and I know what I need to do so I'm comfortable there", said Lletget, who could also be deployed a bit deeper in central midfielder, behind another playmaker, to give the US more creative options to try and break down the Honduras defensive wall.

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The U.S. has reasonable depth but that is being tested this week, with key men Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson ruled out of action.

Who will come out with the three points at Avaya tonight? In that situation, they'd need to be as close to flawless as possible over the final six games, including June 11 trek to Mexico City.

The U.S. still has to play Mexico in Azteca. Now, it must beat Honduras on Friday at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif., in order to restore hope and build momentum for the sprint to Russian Federation. Oscar Boniek García fired just wide of Howard's goal in the 52 minute and what looked like the go-ahead goal was waved off when Carlo Costly was judged to be offside. It's just as important as Friday's game was, and it will be a far tougher challenge.

Costa Rica at Honduras, 4 p.m.

In what could be a nervy contest for the Americans, they are going to have to will the ball into the goal somehow.

It may sound like a no-brainer to plug Dempsey into the lineup considering he has started three matches for the Seattle Sounders to open the MLS season.

The U.S. had never before won a hexagonal game by more than three goals. Anything less would carry anxiety into the next set of games in June. If they fail to win tonight, it will be either 15 or 16 of 21 remaining.

The stated goal of four points from this round of qualifiers is now attainable.

The games that might decide the Americans' fate will come in early September, when they have a home game against Costa Rica and a road game vs. Honduras. That match will take place at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, live at 9 p.m. CT on beIN SPORTS, Telemundo and NBC Universo.