The United States ran rampant against Grenada in Austin on Friday night, with the FC Dallas pair of Jesús Ferreira and Paul Arriola accounting for five goals as they began their defense of the CONCACAF Nations League title.
While it did take the Americans nearly a full half of play to break through, the overall game went according to how it would be expected for two teams separated by 155 places in the FIFA rankings. The damage was done in a frantic 35 minutes space of time, that saw Ferreira score four, and his club teammate Arriola also adding another to bring his international tally to ten goals.
The starting lineup saw head coach Gregg Berhalter make several changes compared to the eleven that were trotted out for Sunday’s draw against Uruguay. Presumptive starting keeper Matt Turner returned to the field, while Reggie Cannon, Antonee Robinson and Cameron Carter-Vickers also made their way back into the defense.
In contrast, Aaron Long retained his starting spot in central defense, his third straight in this window. He did depart at the half a second straight time, on this instance for Walker Zimmerman.
Kellyn Acosta and Luca de la Torre joined Weston McKennie in the three-man midfield, while Paul Arriola and Jordan Morris earned their first starts of the window, flanking eventual man-of-the-match Ferreira.
Berhalter’s squad clearly dominated the proceedings from start to finish, holding two thirds of possession and outshooting their overwhelmed guests by a 25-3 margin. Grenada’s three shots all came late in the game, with none of them forcing Turner into action.
They came close to opening the scoring in the 13th minute when Ferreira collided with Grenada keeper Jason Belfon in front of goal, and Arriola’s snap header was cleared off the line by the defense.
Ferreira broke through into the left of the area in the 33rd minute thanks a fine through-ball by Acosta, but weakly hit the ball towards the far post with his left foot, giving Belfon an easy save.
The FC Dallas man was successful just past the 42-minute mark however, after an angled shot of Arriola was blocked, but landed at Ferreira’s foot on the right side just beyond the six-yard box. He took a couple steps to round the last defender and placed his shot to the left, beyond Belfon’s grasp for the 1-0 lead.
Cameron Carter-Vickers connected on a corner from Acosta at the end of regulation, however his header was high. Four minutes into added time, Ferreira was even closer, with his low attempt from the center of the area just wide right.
Once again, he rectified the close miss a few minutes later, springing behind the defense on a wonderful through-ball from Arriola, and confidently placing his shot inside the lower left corner for the two-goal lead in the 54th minute.
Two minutes lafter he completed his hat-trick, thanks to a bit of trickery. Acosta lined up to take a corner from the right. With the defense focused on defending inside their box, Ferreira snuck back towards the edge of the penalty to take Acosta’s low-roller, and one-time it to the upper right corner.
Moments before the hour mark, de la Torre was almost on the scoreboard when his attempt to the upper left was just poked clear by Belfon, but three minutes later he was responsible for picking out Arriola on the left for a frantic run that ended with the Americans’ fourth goal, a powerful blast from the left just as he collided with the keeper.
Grenada finally managed their first shot in the 78th minute, a header from Kharlton Belmar on a free kick by Ashley Charles, however that attempt, as well as their two further shots in the dying minutes, were of little danger to Turner.
Ferreira then capped his remarkable night with a fourth goal in the 78th minute, advancing into the area alongside Brenden Aaronson. The new Leeds purchase drew the keeper in his direction, and slid a short pass to his teammate for the easy finish from five yeards.
The FC Dallas player is the fifth American player to score four in a single game, and is the first since Landon Donovan put four past Cuba in 2003.
Berhalter’s men have one game left in the current window, a Tuesday-night visit to El Salvador, where they will try to wash away the memory of the scoreless draw on their last visit to open World Cup qualification last September.