Jozy Altidore scored a second-half brace as the United States routed Trinidad & Tobago 4-0 at home on Tuesday to win in Group C qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
With the Americans nursing a 1-0 lead in an initially tight contest, Altidore put the match away with a flurry, striking home in the 59th minute and adding a second just four minutes later in Jacksonville, Florida.
The 26-year-old striker reached 16 career goals in World Cup qualifying, moving two past Clint Dempsey to own the US record.
The US, who blasted St. Vincent and the Grenadines 6-0 on Friday, will bring confidence into the next round of qualifying which begins with a match against Mexico in November.
“First in the group. Our goal achieved,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann told reporters. “We’re now looking forward to an exciting November game. It’s a huge opportunity to start the hexagonal and send a message.”
Guatemala also thrashed St. Vincent 9-3 on Tuesday but finished third in Group C, a point behind Trinidad & Tobago.
Sacha Kljestan put the Americans on the scoreboard in the 44th minute while Paul Arriola added a late goal to cap the demolition.
The US enjoyed timely performances from veterans and young players alike.
Captain Michael Bradley returned from his suspension with a solid effort. Kljestan was active all night, and was praised by Klinsmann, who noted the midfielder has been in form since entering training camp.
Seventeen-year-old playmaker Christian Pulisic became the youngest man ever to start a qualifier for the US team, breaking the record of Altidore, who was 18 when he started against Cuba in 2008.
Pulisic proved worthy of the big stage and repeatedly created offensive chances but it was Altidore who took the spotlight to continue his roller coaster year.
In May, Altidore suffered his fourth hamstring injury in two years and was sidelined for two months.
Altidore, who missed most of the 2014 World Cup with a hamstring strain, has also endured a rocky relationship with Klinsmann and was sent home from last summer’s Gold Cup over fitness concerns.
After his latest display, it is safe to say Altidore is back in Klinsmann’s good graces.