Weston McKennie and Walker Zimmerman scored first-half goals to give the US an early spark on a frigid night and a fresh Christian Pulisic scored after entering in the second half to lead the Americans to victory over Honduras 3-0 in their World Cup qualifier.
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Matt Turner didn’t have to make a single save for the Americans, who emerged from the pandemic-prompted winter session in second place in the Concacaf qualifying table with three matches remaining.
The kickoff temperature on Wednesday night was 3F (-16C) with a -14F (-25C) wind chill at a site picked by US Soccer along with Columbus, Ohio, for optimal home-field advantage over opponents from tropical countries. The Americans beat El Salvador 1-0 on Thursday, when it was 29F in Ohio and lost 2-0 to host Canada on Sunday in Hamilton, Ontario, when it was 22F. The weather in Minnesota was another level of cold, the lowest in US team history.
“It was freezing out here. I’m looking forward to getting into the locker room,” Pulisic said after the game.
McKennie had on two sets of gloves, peeling off one pair as he came to the bench after being replaced in the 84th minute. The star midfielder scored a header in the eighth minute, fittingly after joking the day before that his big head ought to minimize any discomfort from a frozen ball in the February chill. It was McKennie’s ninth international goal, his second in World Cup qualifying, and it would prove to be enough.
After failing to score from set pieces in the first 10 qualifiers, the US scored three on Wednesday.
The second goal developed from a free kick by Kellyn Acosta, who started as a defensive midfielder for the first time since the October loss at Panama. The ball whizzed past the head of a leaping Jordan Morris and Zimmerman pivoted around defender Denil Maldonado in the 37th minute. The ball glanced off Zimmerman’s left leg, and he kicked it in with his right from five-yards out for his third international goal. Zimmerman wore the captain’s armband for the night.
Pulisic scored three minutes after entering. Acosta’s corner kick was headed by Ricardo Pepi to Zimmerman, and the ball bounced off a leg to Pulisic. He scored from near the penalty spot with his second touch of the game, his 18th international goal.
“It’s my time to come in and make a difference, and I’m glad I did,” Pulisic said.
The Americans played without Tyler Adams and Chris Richards, both of whom were injured against Canada. The US are also still missing midfielder Gio Reyna, sidelined by a hamstring injury sustained in the opening qualifier at El Salvador on 2 September.
The top three nations from Concacaf qualify for this year’s tournament in Qatar and fourth place advances to a playoff against the Oceania champion, who will most likely be New Zealand.