U.S. Open Cup success had not come for the San JoseEarthquakes in almost a decade, but on Tuesday evening at Cagan Stadium on thecampus of Stanford University the Quakesdispatched of NASL side Fort Lauderdale Strikers to advance to the fourth roundof the tournament. A pair of goals from rookie Sam Garza was enough to countera wonder strike from Strikers forward Mark Anderson and send the intrepid 1,271fans in attendance home happy.As is often the case when two teams meet for the first timein nearly three decades, the Earthquakes and the Strikers played tentativelyfor the matchs first ten minutes. Fort Lauderdalerarely ventured past the centerline, and San Jose seemed content to control possession across thedefensive back four. It wasnt until the 15th minute that eitherteam even had a shot attempt, when the Quakes' Ike Opara headed a free kick fromthe foot of Tressor Moreno wide of the goal. However, the venture into the attacking third began to occurat an accelerated rate over the ensuing minutes. In the 17th minute,following a deflected pass from Sam Garza intended for Sercan Guvenisik, StevenLenhart found himself alone at the top of the area with only Strikersgoalkeeper Matt Glaeser to beat. His hard shot to the keepers left was kickedaway from danger. A minute later, Lenharts strike partner Guvenisik nearlyput the Earthquakes on top, but his headed ball from Josh Suggs bounced up inthe six-yard box and was deflected over the crossbar for a corner kick. The Earthquakes were almost caught out on a Strikerscounterattack in the 21st minute when, on a through ball to the topof the area, defender Justin Morrow slipped and allowed Walter Restrepo a pathon goal. However, goalkeeper David Bingham rushed forward to neutralize theball and clear it to safety. The match settled down and both teams traded fruitless tripsinto the attacking third over the next quarter hour. Perhaps the lack of actionlulled Bingham into a sense of calm because in an unfortunate moment of poorpositioning, he was made to pay by the opportunistic Strikers. Following a well timed tackle from the Strikers, the ballrolled into the path of forward Mark Anderson just inside his own half of thefield. Taking a small touch to settle himself after looking to be surprised atreceiving the ball, Andersonspied Bingham well off his goal line, and uncorked a shot from the Strikersside of the centerline. Bingham could only back peddle and thrust his armsskyward in an attempt to save the shot, but his efforts were for naught and theball settled into the net on the fly. The Earthquakes looked shocked by the Strikers goal andimmediately switched to a higher gear on offense. The team tried to breakthrough over the final five minutes of the half, but instead retreated to thelocker room at halftime trailing 1-0. The second half began with the Earthquakes clearly burned bythe actions of the first half, and they poured forward in numbers looking forthe tying goal. In the 47th minute, it looked like the goal had beenfound, when a slick pass from Morenowas received by Garza on the right wing and crossed across the front of goal.Guvenisik met the ball at the far post and sent the ball on target, but theStriker goalkeeper just managed to keep the ball from crossing the goal line. The sustained pressure by San Jose appeared to have paid dividends inthe 61st minute, as Garza found a deflected ball at his feet just inside theright corner of the area. However, his shot was well off target and soared highinto the evening air. In the 63rd minute, the Earthquakes finallyequalized, as Garza made amends for his earlier miss with a well placed balllow inside the post. The goal was justly deserved, and the Earthquakes continuedto press the Strikers on the restart. In the 70th minute, followinga giveaway from the Fort Lauderdale defense in adangerous area, San Josetook the lead. Not looking to do anything fancy, Lenhart redirected theloose ball back into the path of Garza. The Earthquakes rookie one-timed a shotinto the back of the net to put the home side up 2-1. Trailing by a goal and with time running out on theirtournament life, the Strikers looked for every opportunity to get into theattacking third. In the 72nd minute and again in the 74thminute, goal scorer Anderson had the chance to level the score, but twice hewas denied by excellent saves from goalkeeper Bingham. The danger past, the Earthquakes again restored theirdominance in possession and poured forward looking to salt the match away.Second half substitutes Simon Dawkins and Steven Beitashour brought afirst-team feeling to the proceedings, and the final 15 minutes of the matchwas played almost exclusively in the Strikers' end. Just once was Bingham tested in that time, when in the 85thminute he was called to parry away a fierce strike from defender Scott Lorenzplaying in an advanced position on a restart, but that was all the Florida sidewas able to muster. As the fans rose to their feet during the three minutes ofstoppage time, the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the match andthe Earthquakes celebrated their 2-1 victory.
SAN JOSE — Bruce Arena's return as U.S. coach reignited American confidence, and his players responded with an emphatic rebound in World Cup qualifying.
Clint Dempsey returned from an irregular heartbeat to score his second international hat trick, 18-year-old phenom Christian Pulisic had one goal and set up three others, and the U.S. routed Honduras 6-0 Friday night to get right back in contention for an eighth straight World Cup berth.
Surprise starter Sebastian Lletget got his first international goal in the fifth minute after Pulisic's shot deflected off the goalkeeper, Michael Bradley doubled the lead in the 27th and Dempsey scored off Pulisic's perfectly weighted chip in the 32nd.
Finding room to maneuver in a central midfield role, Pulisic made it 4-0 just 12 seconds into the second half with his fourth international goal, Dempsey rounded the keeper to score following a Pulisic feed in the 49th, and Dempsey got another on a 23-yard free kick in the 54th. With 55 international goals, Dempsey moved within two of Landon Donovan's American record.
In its first competitive match since Arena replaced Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. moved from last to fourth in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, tied at three points with Honduras but ahead on goal difference, Mexico leads with seven points, followed by Costa Rica with six and Panama with four.
The top three nations qualify for next year's tournament in Russia, and the fourth-place nation advances to a playoff. With a victory at Panama on Tuesday, the Americans could move into the top three.
The U.S. had never before won a hexagonal game by more than three goals.
And oh how the American Outlaws and others among the lively home crowd loved every second of this long-awaited showing, chanting "Michael Bradley!" and "Demp-sey! Demp-sey!" through the Bay Area rain and cool March air.
Then, it was "Bruce Arena! Bruce Arena!"
Gloom descended upon the Americans in November when they opened the hexagonal with a 2-1 home loss to Mexico and a 4-0 wipeout at Costa Rica. The defeats caused the U.S. Soccer Federation to fire Klinsmann, who had coached the Americans since 2011, and bring back Arena, who lead the team from 1998-2006.
Dempsey, 34 and hoping to reach a fourth World Cup, was sidelined from August until this month by an irregular heartbeat and likely was starting only because of injuries to Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris. Tim Howard, the Americans' 38-year-old goalkeeper, got the shutout after returning only two weeks ago from a leg injury sustained in the loss to Mexico.
Geoff Cameron, back from a knee strain that had sidelined him for fourth months, was shifted to right back from central defense because of injuries to others, and Jorge Villafana was inserted on the left.
But there were yet more injuries. Lletget hurt his left ankle on Ever Alvarado's tackle and was replaced in the 18th minute, and defender John Brooks was stretchered off the field, hand over his face, in the 69th due to dehydration.
From the opening whistle, the U.S. played more aggressively than in the latter years of Klinsmann's reign. Arena revamped the midfield, giving a prominent role to Pulisic, who last week became the youngest American to score in the Champions League. He inserted Lletget and Nagbe, who were largely overlooked by Klinsmann last year, on the flanks.
The U.S. went ahead when Jozy Altidore picked up a loose ball and on his second try poked the ball ahead to Pulisic. His left-footed shot that went off goalkeeper Donis Escobar, and Lletget tapped in the ball with his right foot from 2 yards.
Bradley, given his debut by Arena in 2006, doubled the lead when he took a pass from Alejando Bedoya, cut to his left, took four touches and cut the ball back to beat Escobar with one-hopper from about 25 yards.
Showing poise beyond his years, Pulisic created the third goal when he lofted a pass to Dempsey, who allowed the ball of bounce off his right shoulder. Dempsey held off Henry Figueroa and while falling scored with his right foot from 8 yards.
The United States Men's National Team faces a critical match against Honduras.
With an 0-2 record, and currently in last place, the USMNT is on the brink of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
Motivation across the sports world is pouring in for the Red, White and Blue.