Panama 0-0 — 0
United States 3-1 — 4
The United States needed a strong showing in its final home World Cup qualifier, and it got exactly that by whacking Panama 4-0 behind a pair of goals from Jozy Altidore and an early marker from Christian Pulisic. Check out the box score here, and read on for highlights from the match.
Pulisic started the night by getting Panama keeper Jaime Penedo out of position and coolly depositing the ball into the open net in the eighth minute, just the sixth goal Panama had conceded in World Cup qualifying.
8′: GOAL: Christian Pulisic of the United States
Altidore then put Panama on the back foot by taking a beautiful pass from Pulisic to double the lead, giving the Americans some much needed breathing room.
20′: GOAL: Jozy Altidore of the United States
Roberto Garcia wasn’t letting Armando Cooper get away with this foul on Bobby Wood, awarding a penalty to the U.S.
42′: PENALTY: Yellow card to Armando Cooper for a foul on Bobby Wood in the box
Altidore then scored by floating a Panenka over Penedo, giving the U.S. a chokehold on the match.
43′: GOAL: Jozy Altidore scores on a penalty
The rest of the night was academic, with Wood finishing the scoring.
64′: GOAL: Bobby Wood scores to make it 4-0
The result means that the U.S. now faces a simple road to Russia. All it must do is defeat Trinidad and Tobago in its final match in Port of Spain and it will qualify for the World Cup. Even with a draw or a loss, the U.S. should do no worse than a playoff spot to keep its hopes alive.
United States vs. Panama Game Preview
It’s as big of a match as the United States has played in 28 years, as the USMNT faces the possibility of not qualifying for the World Cup if they don’t get the job done tonight against Panama. The U.S. enters the match on nine points with a record of 2-3-3, while Panama is a point better at 10 points and a record of 2-4-2.
This is the latest that the United States has left qualifying for the World Cup since 2002, which was current coach Bruce Arena’s first time in charge of the national team. In that cycle, the U.S. qualified on the final weekend and reached the quarterfinals in the World Cup, its best showing since 1930.
This cycle, however, has been littered with issues. The Americans got off to a disastrous start with losses to Mexico and Costa Rica, the latter of which cost coach Jurgen Klinsmann his job. Arena’s results have been better, but the USMNT still hasn’t looked anything like it has in past cycles, when the team qualified with games to spare.
After falling again to Costa Rica and drawing with Honduras, the U.S. received a barrel of criticism from former national team member Alexi Lalas, who has called the current group soft. In response, U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, who is expected to start the match tonight, dismissed Lalas’ rhetoric and expressed confidence in a victory.
A win will smooth over a lot of issues and leave the U.S. needing to only beat Trinidad and Tobago to secure qualification. But a draw will leave the U.S. needing help from Costa Rica to qualify, and a loss will force them into a playoff with either Syria or Australia, and that’s in a best-case scenario.