Player Ratings: U.S. 2, Trinidad and Tobago 0

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By JACK HAZZARD

US logoThe United States men’s national team can breathe a sigh of relief as it moved into third place in the final round of regional World Cup qualifying after defeating Trinidad and Tobago, 2-0, on Thursday night.

The budding starlet Christian Pulisic scored both goals for Coach Bruce Arena‘s squad, with the next stop in the Hexagonal coming Sunday at Azteca Stadium in Mexico.

Here are our player ratings:

Goalkeeper

Tim Howard had a quiet game, apart from nearly allowing a goal by Kenwyne Jones in the first half. He made two saves to record the shutout. Grade: B

Defenders

DeAndre Yedlin, the right back, did well pressing into the attack. He sent numerous crosses into the box and initiated the play on the first goal. Defensively, Yedlin’s 1 v 1 ability remains a concern, especially as the American team prepares to face a skillful Mexico. Grade: B-

Geoff Cameron, much like Howard, also had a solid if unspectacular game at center back, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He lofted a few long balls forward, but perhaps more importantly, did not draw attention from the referee — a yellow card would have meant a suspension for the Mexico game. Grade: B

John Brooks overcame concerns that an injury would hamper his play to turn in a solid effort at center back. He showed some late skill as he held the ball against the sideline and did a step over before a clearance. Grade: B-

Jorge Villafaña menaced Trinidad and Tobago as he pressed forward from his left back position. He looked to have run out of gas late and his man-marking skills could be put to the test if he plays against Mexico. Grade: C

Midfielders

Michael Bradley, playing as the central defensive midfielder, played a muted role as he again wore the captain’s armband. He was nothing more, nothing less than a clean link between the back line and the team’s dynamic attack. Grade: B

Christian Pulisic continues to impress — and rightfully so. As the attacking midfielder, Pulisic was the center of the U.S. attack, scoring both goals and bringing forth a flood of superlatives. At 18, the sky is the limit and the diminutive player from Hershey, Pa., looks ready for his next star turn. Grade: A+

Darlington Nagbe, with Pulisic, helped to make things happen for the U.S. He provided the assist on the first goal driving into the heart of the T&T defense before dishing a pass. He was quick and dynamic. Grade: A

Fabian Johnson doesn’t get much notice and you don’t hear his name much from the announcers, but the left-side midfielder has evolved into one of the most important players for the U.S. Tactically savvy and technically solid, Johnson is a key player for Arena. Grade: B

Forwards

Clint Dempsey had a relatively tranquil game amid the dynamism of the U.S. attack. He was subbed off by Arena in the second half, and seemed to direct some words of disappointment and upset at the coach. Does he sit against Mexico? Stay tuned. Grade: C+

Jozy Altidore takes a lot of criticism, but he remains the team’s best player with his back to the goal. Though he failed to score on his own, his through ball found Pulisic for the clinching goal. Grade: B+

Substitutes

Kellyn Acosta provided the U.S. with a skillful option off the bench. His free kick from the left flank nearly found its way into the back of the net. Grade: B

Alejandro Bedoya had little impact after entering the match late. Grade: Incomplete

Bobby Wood saw only 10 minutes of action, but quickly made his presence known with a blast off the post. Could his speed and size lead Arena to give him the start at Mexico? Grade: Incomplete

Coach

Bruce Arena has the U.S. playing with more confidence and has the team on a 2-0-1 run in World Cup qualifying since he replaced Jurgen Klinsmann. The win Thursday night, at the halfway point in the Hex, takes a bit of the pressure off the U.S. heading to Azteca. Grade: B+