Sunday, 22 October, 2017

US National Team cruises by Panama in World Cup qualifying

2:25 | Soccer         A World Cup Without Messi 2:25 | Soccer A World Cup Without Messi
Damon Campbell | 08 October, 2017, 01:11

Goal difference means the Americans put themselves in great shape to reach an eighth straight World Cup, nearly certainly with a win Tuesday in their finale at already eliminated Trinidad and Tobago and likely with a draw against the Soca Warriors if Honduras fails to win Saturday. A dominant win against Panama on Friday night has put the US on the brink.

"I think the spacing was pretty good for most of the night - there were still some things we could do better - I think the game plan was pretty much executed". "I don't think there was anything they missed, and it made for a very easy job for us tonight in terms of what to expect from Panama".

Jozy Altidore assisted on the opening goal then scored twice in the first half - including one on a penalty kick - for the US and Christian Pulisic added a goal and an assist before the break. "He's a good player, but for Christian to be more effective he needs to have good players around him". Panama had allowed five goals in eight previous World Cup qualifiers before shipping four against the US and now will simply hope to hold on to the fourth spot, which will play either Australia or Syria in an intercontinental playoff to go to Russian Federation. Pulisic gathered the ball on the left wing, waited for the defense to set up, then fed Altidore at the edge of the 6-yard box for the easy goal and a 2-0 lead. We spoke about being aggressive and not just being up-against-them and kicking-them aggressive, but getting the ball forward and putting them on their heels.

As Altidore said, "In all my years with the national team, I don't think I've ever been this prepared". At the end of the day, the players have to go out and do it ... You could certainly make a case for Altidore for the night's man of the match honors, but the way Pulisic took control of the game early on was a sight to behold. I know he's a young kid.

That doesn't mean the Americans will play for the draw, but you could see Michael Bradley paired with a defensive partner - Dax McCarty or Kellyn Acosta - or Arena could opt for a one-striker lineup that gives a bit more defensive help in the middle of the field.

Wood did well too, earning the penalty that Altidore converted before Wood himself scored the fourth goal later on.

He picked up a nice touch from Altidore and raced past the defense. Pulisic finished from a tight angle to give the USA a 1-0 lead, and 10 minutes later set up a tap-in goal for Altidore to give the hosts a commanding 2-0 advantage. "He scores goals, but he's a great passer". He knows where everyone is.

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Bruce Arena made a host of changes after United States' 1-1 draw in Honduras last time out, six in total as Altidore, Tim Howard, Wood, Paul Arriola, DeAndre Yedlin and Jorge Villafana returned to the line-up at the expense of Clint Dempsey, Brad Guzan, Jordan Morris, Kellyn Acosta, Graham Zusi and DaMarcus Beasley.

This matters, because going forward the U.S.is unlikely to get away with throwing caution so wantonly to the wind.

"Jozy just laid it off to me and I was just gone, I guess", Pulisic said.

"It's always different, CONCACAF". (The Soca Warriors, who led at Mexico late before succumbing 3-1 on Friday, are already eliminated.) But the stakes are just as high.

The lopsided result provided a cozy cushion in the first tiebreaker (goal differential), leaving both Panama and Honduras (2-3-3) to win their final matches by inconceivable margins. If Messi doesn't get any teammates to step up in the attack on Tuesday against Ecuador he and Argentina won't even make the World Cup.

The U.S.is not out of the qualifying woods yet, but a win or draw at last-place Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday will nearly certainly ensure the national team finishes third and goes directly to the World Cup without having to deal with a home-and-home playoff against the fifth-placed Asian team. So we feel good about that. So we understand how hard the conditions are.

On Tuesday, they hope, it will be.

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