[Highlights Below]

The United States men’s soccer team moved to within touching distance of a place in the final round of World Cup qualifying after a comfortable 6-0 victory over St. Vincent and the Grenadines. On a stifling afternoon in St. Vincent, it took Jurgen Klinsmann’s side a while to get going, but once Bobby Wood broke the deadlock with a superb first-time strike in the 27th minute there was only ever going to be one outcome.

By halftime the result was put beyond doubt. Matt Besler marked the birth of his daughter earlier in the day with a first international goal before Jozy Altidore slammed home a penalty to tie Clint Dempsey’s U.S. record of 14 World Cup qualifying goals and move into third place outright on the team’s all-time scoring list with 35.

After losing its way somewhat to start the second half, the arrivals off the bench of Sacha Kljestan and Christian Pulisic got the visiting team firmly back in the groove. First the duo took it in turns to set up the other, allowing Pulisic to become the United States’ youngest ever goalscorer in a World Cup qualifier and Kljestan to get his first goal in a U.S. shirt since 2010. But that wasn't the end of their sparkling duet. In injury time, Kljestan laid the ball back to Pulisic on the edge of the box and the 17-year-old enhanced his already burgeoning reputation yet further with a beautifully controlled finish.

In the team's first match since bowing out of the Copa America Centenario in June, it was  just the sort of dominant and professional performance Klinsmann will have been seeking. Having already been upset on the road in this qualifying group to Guatemala, the U.S. coach had emphasized beforehand, both explicitly and with the selection of an experienced lineup, that he was taking nothing for granted, even against opposition ranked 156th int he FIFA rankings.

With the win, the U.S. will now qualify for the Hexagonal if Trinidad and Tobago beats Guatemala at home later on Friday. If not, the battle for the top two spots in the group will go to the final day when the U.S. would need to avoid defeat at home to Trinidad.

To Klinsmann’s undoubted relief, there was no squirm-inducing moment to match St Vincent and the Grenadines taking a shock fifth minute lead when the sides met in St. Louis last November. Still, after a bright first few minutes in which Wood scuffed a chance to take the lead on the uneven surface, the U.S. fell into something of a slumber.

And the Caribbean minnow had a golden opportunity to take the lead only for forward Oalex Anderson to mistime his header into the ground. Barely a minute later St. Vincent was behind. The buildup may not have been the prettiest with Altidore having a run halted and then hitting his slightly off target. But what happened next was perfection, with Fabian Johnson laying the ball back to Wood 20 yards out and the striker placing the ball into the back of the net to follow up his debut Bundesliga goal last week.

Four minutes later the U.S. doubled its lead as a nightmare period for St. Vincent defender Roy Richards began. First Richards headed a free-kick straight into the path of Besler, who half-volleyed the ball into the net and followed up with the now established baby-rocking celebration. And before halftime Richards recklessly brought down Wood in the box and Altidore made no mistake form the penalty spot.

While missing captain Michael Bradley, as well as Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and John Brooks, Klinsmann had gone with an experienced core of players who helped the U.S. to the Copa America semifinals. It meant no place in the starting lineup for up-and-coming players like Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe.

Klinsmann made no changes at halftime, either, but the starters fell into something of a slumber to begin the second period. And St. Vincent and the Grenadines twice had the ball in the back of the net only to have their celebrations rightly halted for offside flags.

It was the arrival of Pulisic and Kljestan midway through the second half that allowed the U.S to make the win an emphatic one. While Pulisic’s potential has long been raved about and his future place as a key part of the team already looks secured, Kljestan was making his first appearance for his country in more than two years.

And after a fine 18 months at New York Red Bulls, the technically gifted and intelligent midfielder provided a powerful statement of why he warrants a role in the squad, at the very least. First he found space around the area and found Pulisic with a precise pass into the box, allowing the youngster to take a perfect first touch and finish coolly.

Minutes later Kljestan timed his run into the box perfectly to meet Pulisic’s ball across the face of goal. There is no doubt that it is Pulisic who will grab the headlines, capping his latest starring cameo with a wonderfully praise finish to wrap up a perfect afternoon for Klinsmann an co.