U.S. Routs Honduras and Steadies Its World Cup Qualifying Campaign

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Sebastian Lletget after scoring the first goal for the United States on Friday night.

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Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

SAN JOSE, Calif. — There was never any reason to worry. Nope, never, not at all.

Not when the United States looked lethargic and overmatched in losing its first two games in the second round of World Cup qualifying, or when its collective failures prompted a coaching change, or when the absences of four probable starters prompted Coach Bruce Arena to improvise a lineup for his first match in charge in a decade.

The Americans spent four months careening toward ignominy. They needed 32 minutes Friday night to restore optimism in this qualifying cycle, pounding Honduras in a 6-0 victory at Avaya Stadium that enhanced their long-term prospects but also their short-term confidence heading into another qualifier next week at Panama.

“That’s one way to make a statement, I guess,” midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said.

The demolition began with a goal in the fifth minute, by Sebastian Lletget, and it continued at nearly regular intervals, with two more in the first half and three in the first nine minutes after halftime. All but one involved Clint Dempsey, who scored a hat trick in his first national team appearance in nine months (irregular heartbeat), or the 18-year-old sensation Christian Pulisic, who sprang Dempsey for two goals and was justly rewarded with one of his own.

“Nothing but praise for my team,” Arena said after the match.

The glut of goals improved the Americans’ goal differential in Concacaf’s final phase of qualifying to plus-1, bumping them up to fourth place out of six nations with seven matches left. They hold the same record as the bottom two teams, Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras, at 1-2-0.

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Clint Dempsey, left, held off Henry Figueroa of Honduras…

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