The conditions for the U.S. men's national team's clash with Honduras were downright sadistic.
As it pushes for a World Cup spot, the U.S. traded comfort for percentage points, choosing to play Wednesday night's games in the frozen tundra that is Minnesota. Temperatures dipped below zero, players struggled to adapt, few people had fun. It was the coldest qualifier in USMNT history. Yes, even colder than the infamous Snow Clasico.
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Did the U.S. really need this sort of environment to take down lowly Honduras? Was this the best way to put the USMNT's stars in a position to succeed?
That's all debatable, but what isn't debatable is that the end 3-0 result was satisfactory as the U.S. moved closer to Qatar with a much-needed win and a few much-needed goals.
The U.S. put its first-half demons to rest on Wednesday night, scoring twice in the opening 45 minutes. The reason the goals were so important? How they were scored, who they were scored by and even the fact that they were scored at all.
The first came via a Kellyn Acosta free kick, giving the USMNT its first set-piece goal of the qualifying cycle. Given the weapons the USMNT has at its disposal, that stat was baffling, but it's now one that is in the past.
Weston McKennie was the one on the end of Acosta's free-kick, which didn't look too dissimilar to the one that set up Miles Robinson's Gold Cup winner last summer. McKennie, one of the USMNT's biggest weapons on set pieces, showed once again why he was this window's MVP by continuing his goalscoring form at the perfect time.
The second goal came from, wouldn't you know it, another set-piece with Acosta delivering the ball in yet again. This one was fired home by Walker Zimmerman who, after a bit of pushing and shoving, was able to turn and fire into the back of the net late in the first half.
And the third? Another set piece. With the ball bouncing in the box, Christian Pulisic, a player that has struggled mightily in recent weeks, pounced to fire the U.S. ahead 3-0 just moments after he was introduced into the game after being benched in favor of Jordan Morris.
That goal will be a massive one for Pulisic, who needed a moment just like that to get going. Plagued by inconsistent minutes and inconsistent positioning at Chelsea, Pulisic will now head back to Stamford Bridge on a high, giving him a chance to use this game as a springboard back to where he needs to be.
Still, it wasn't just the goals that were encouraging, but rather many of the moments in between them. Amid a week that has seen the U.S. earn criticism for being too slow and too timid in attack, Wednesday's game saw Gregg Berhalter's team open things up and, for lack of a better explanation, try things.
Acosta, brought in to replace the injured Tyler Adams, tried a few balls over the top that were lacking in the loss to Canada. One nearly set up what could have been a goal for Tim Weah, whose verticality remains vital to the U.S. cause.
McKennie, who has shined all week, showed off his own creativity with some good attacking sequences. The best was a one-two with Weah that was only kept out by a great save from Luis Lopez.
The ball moved faster. The wingers stayed wider to open up the defense. The delivery was better, more consistent, more dangerous.
Overall, it was exactly what was needed at this moment. With this win, the U.S. will head into the final window of qualifying in second place in CONCACAF, knowing that a result or two will be enough to get to the World Cup.
Wednesday night's game was nothing like what they'll see there. The U.S. will face better teams in Qatar in much warmer temperatures.
But it's moments like these that will get them there and, once again, the U.S. players found a way to survive, and even thrive, when the situation forced them to.