The U.S. men's national team thumped Grenada 7-1 on the road in its first competitive game since the 2022 World Cup on Friday to move within touching distance of a place in the CONCACAF Nations League final four.
Ricardo Pepi and Weston McKennie each scored twice while Christian Pulisic starred by playing a major role in five of the goals, including scoring one of his own. Brenden Aaronson and Alejandro Zendejas -- making his first appearance since committing to the U.S. over Mexico -- scored the other goal for a U.S. side under the charge of interim coach Anthony Hudson.
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The win means that the U.S. only needs a draw against El Salvador in Orlando on Monday in order to top its group and make the Nations League final four in June.
In a game that often felt more like a training exercise against a team ranked 173rd in the world, the USMNT set a new mark for the most goals in a match played out the United States.
The visitors dominated and scored four goals inside the first 34 minutes at the 8,000 capacity Kirani James National Stadium in the capital St. George's.
"A performance and a result like this can be -- you don't want to get carried away," Hudson said after the game.
"The importance for us is just to make sure that we do all the right things between now and the next game and we finish the job off. But the actual performance, I thought it was the result of just a really, really good week."
Pulisic, captaining the team in the absence of the injured Tyler Adams, had a hand in all four first-half goals, assisting for Pepi to head in after four minutes and Aaronson to fire home a second in the 20th. The Chelsea star then delivered two set-pieces from which Leeds United midfielder McKennie scored twice for his second multi-goal game for the U.S.
"We came out really strong with a lot of energy and just kind of put with them right away. So I think they were kind of surprised by that. Took our goals well and just a great all around performance. Definitely gives us confidence," Pulisic said.
The U.S. continued the scoring after the break with Pulisic getting a goal of his own with a shot that Grenada goalkeeper Jason Belfon let squirm through his grasp. Pepi, making something of a statement after he was left off the World Cup roster, scored his second with a near-post finish from Luca de la Torres's through ball.
That man ©️🅿️🔟 pic.twitter.com/jr9rsu1hOH— U.S. Men's National Soccer Team (@USMNT) March 25, 2023
Zendejas added a late spark off the bench and curled in his first U.S. goal from 20 yards to round out the scoring in the 72nd minute. His appearance in a competitive fixture also means the Club America midfielder is officially tied to the U.S.
An inexperienced defense featuring a debut for Auston Trusty and a first start for Bryan Reynolds looked vulnerable at times and conceded a consolation goal for Grenada from Myles Hippolyte to make it 3-1 in the first half. Grenada also hit the post when the score was 1-0.
But otherwise it was a comfortable evening for Hudson, who remains in charge following the expiration of Gregg Berhalter's contract.
The former U.S. assistant started seven Players who featured in the USMNT's run to the round of 16 in Qatar, including Gio Reyna.
At the heart of a controversy involving Berhalter and the Reyna family that has engulfed the team in recent months after he was used sparingly at the World Cup, the Borussia Dortmund 20-year-old was selected in a central creative role but made little impact.
For the first time since the league began play in 1996, the U.S. didn't feature a single player currently playing in MLS, although nine of the starters came through the league's academies.