LOS ANGELES: The United States shook off a nightmare start to launch their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 6-1 rout of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
Jozy Altidore scored twice as Jurgen Klinsmann’s men made a quick recovery after Oalex Anderson put the Caribbean visitors ahead in the fifth minute at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.
But Bobby Wood equalized six minutes later and the United States cruised from there.
Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron and Gyasi Zardez also scored for the United States, who came into the match off of a Gold Cup flop on home soil and a defeat by Mexico in a crunch playoff for a place in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.
So it was especially nerve wracking for the crowd to see St. Vincent take a quick lead after Anderson seized upon a long ball over the top of the American defense. He cut and fired it past US keeper Brad Guzan.
Wood responded six minutes later, heading a ball from DeAndre Yedlin past St. Vincent goalkeeper Winslow McDowall.
Johnson extended the lead in the 29th when his free kick deflected off the wall and into McDowall’s net.
“It’s very tricky to play against these type of teams,” Klinsmann said. “We had a similar experience where we played against Antigua and Barbuda. You might get a goal, you might get a counter break and then they bunker in and you have to find a way to score the first and the second goal. It seemed that — very quickly — it turned into an entertaining game.”
Altidore made it 3-1 in the 31st. Left alone at the far post, he headed into an open net after Jermaine Jones had deftly nodded on a corner kick.
With the US playing aggressively and dominating possession, Cameron headed in a corner in the 51st.
Zardes made it 5-1 in the 58th and Altidore wrapped up the scoring with his second in the 74th, firing a left-footed blast from inside the area that shot off a defender and into the net.
“We were sharp,” said US defender Matt Besler. “I thought we moved the ball well. I think we did all of the things necessary against a team like St. Vincent to win the game. Now we move on.”
It was just the start to qualifying that the US needed, and they will try to maintain the momentum on Tuesday when they visit Trinidad and Tobago, who beat Guatemala 2-1 in Guatemala City on Friday.
The match was played before 43,433 fans at the home of baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals.
A moment of silence was observed before kickoff to pay respect to the victims of the attacks in Paris earlier Friday.
Among Friday’s other CONCACAF qualifiers, Mexico defeated El Salvador 3-0 in Mexico City in Juan Carlos Osorio’s debut as coach of El Tri.
Andres Guardado in the seventh minute, Hector Herrera in the 42nd and Carlos Vela in the 64th scored for Mexico, who visit Honduras on Tuesday.