Jozy Altidore
Jozy Altidore scored goals 15 and 16 in World Cup qualifying for the United States against Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday. Getty Images

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The United States set up a meeting with old rivals Mexico to kickoff the final round of World Cup qualifying after brushing aside Trinidad and Tobago 4-0 in Jacksonville on Tuesday. The U.S. went into the game still needing a point to make sure of moving onto the Hexagonal alongside the Soca Warriors and edging out Guatemala. But Jurgen Klinsmann and his players did not hide their ambition to top its group in the penultimate round of qualifying and book a home encounter with Mexico on Nov. 11 in Columbus, Ohio.

And that was secured thanks to a goal just before halftime from Sacha Kljestan, a quick fire double after the break from Jozy Altidore and a goal off the bench from Paul Arriola. Yet, although he wasn’t among the scorers, the standout player for the U.S. was again Christian Pulisic.

After netting two goals and an assist off the bench against St. Vincent and the Grenadines last Friday, the 17-year-old earned his first international start on Tuesday, taking Altidore's record as the youngest player to begin a World Cup qualifier for the United States.

His inclusion came despite Klinsmann stressing beforehand that he would take a patient approach with the Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder. Yet Pulisic’s performance at EverBank field will make it even more difficult for Klinsmann to leave the highly touted youngster out when the real business of World Cup qualifying gets underway in two months’ time.

From the off, his quick feet and technical skill caused a constant threat and already put him a cut above his vastly more experienced teammates. After having a shot pushed wide in the first 10 minutes, Pulisic was left as mystified as everyone watching when his shot from Altidore’s cutback somehow struck the inside of both posts before bouncing across the line to safety.

Instead, Pulisic played a supporting role in the opening goal for another player to have made the most of his opportunities in these dual World Cup qualifiers. Kljestan scored and laid on an assist on his first appearance for the U.S. in two-and-a-half years in St. Vincent, and he put in another fine showing in Jacksonville. After Pulisic’s low cross was cleared straight to him by Trinidad and Tobago defender Khaleem Hyland, the New York Red Bulls midfielder supplied a composed finish.

Completing a trio of shining performances was Altidore. After missing the Copa America Centenario due to injury, the striker has come back firing for Toronto FC. And after breaking the U.S. scoring record in World Cup qualifiers last Friday, he added to his tally yet further. His first finish, on the stroke of the hour, displayed a deftness of touch that has often been lacking from his game as he sidestepped a defender and stroked the ball across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner of the net.

Less than four minutes later Altidore had his second of the game and 16th in World Cup qualifying. Pulisic was again heavily involved, gliding past opponents on the left, as he did repeatedly during the 90 minutes, before laying the ball across the face of goal for Altidore to slide in at the back post and convert.

While Pulisic didn’t manage to get himself on the scoresheet, another young player with hopes of a big future for the national team did. After Pulisic led a counter attack and later had a shot blocked, substitute Arriola tucked away the rebound. For the 21-year-old Tijuana attacker, it was a second goal in two appearances, having also found the net in his debut in a friendly against Puerto Rico in May.

It put the cap on an encouraging two-games for the U.S., picking itself back up after the disappointment of being dominated by Argentina in the semifinals of the Copa America. The U.S. didn’t have things all its own way, though, on Tuesday and there was enough to suggest that the diamond formation Klinsmann opted for with Altidore and Bobby Wood up front may be exposed in transition against higher caliber opposition.

Certainly the tests will get harder in the Hexagonal, starting with what is now its opening contest. However, having beaten Mexico 2-0 in Columbus in the last four World Cup qualifying cycles, it is easy to see why those involved with the U.S. were so keen to kick off with the visit of its fierce rival to the south.