(Reuters) - Clint Dempsey scored a hat-trick as the United States hammered Honduras 6-0 in California on Friday to get their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign back on track.
The United States, who replaced coach Juergen Klinsmann with Bruce Arena in November after losing their last two qualifiers, opened the scoring through Sebastian Lletget after five minutes when he was on hand to tap home after Christian Pulisic’s shot squirmed past the goalkeeper.
Honduras came back into the game but the home side doubled their lead after 27 minutes when U.S. captain Michael Bradley was afforded time and space to fire home a low drive from 25 yards out.
Dempsey marked his return to the team after a year out with a heart complaint by making it 3-0 five minutes later when he volleyed home a deft pass from Pulisic, who made it 4-0 seconds after half-time when he shot into the bottom corner.
Pulisic turned provider again three minutes later with a perfectly weighted pass that Dempsey steered round the keeper before firing into the empty net.
Dempsey got his hat-trick and his side’s sixth goal in the 54th minute when he curled a spectacular free kick into the far corner of the net from 25 yards out.
The result takes the United States onto three points, equal with Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras, and off the bottom of the group on goal difference.
Mexico lead the table with seven points, one ahead of Costa Rica and three more than Panama.
The top three teams in the group qualify automatically for Russia while the fourth-placed side goes into a playoff with a team from the Asian conference.
Writing by Andrew Downie; Editing by Peter Rutherford