U.S. understands significance of World Cup qualifier against Panama

Arena at the 2006 World Cup

While Messi endures his own personal World Cup qualifying nightmare with an Argentina squad that simply can't give him any support, Pulisic's latest gem came with the considerable help of teammates who were as determined as he was to deliver a vital qualifying victory on Friday night. He has now been directly involved in eight of the U.S.'s 15 goals in the nine games of the Hexagonal so far. I wanted to play in the Gold Cup, I wanted to win it.

But the last two games of the Hex certainly qualify as a speed bump on the road to Russian Federation. A significant percentage of the crowd at Red Bull Arena backed Los Ticos. Instead, a pro-Tico crowd saw the U.S. get countered to death in a 2-0 loss. Bobby Wood relies on his speed and agility to get himself open and to take defenders on with pace. An extended stretch of lackluster form, including a loss to Costa Rica and a draw with Honduras during the September fixtures, created legitimate doubt about its World Cup prospects. If that somehow held up at the conclusion of these two forthcoming fixtures, it wouldn't be complete catastrophe.

Who will claim the final 2⃣ automatic #WorldCup spots?

The fourth-place team could also advance if it wins a playoff next month against either Syria or Australia. Yedlin's speed allowed him to push up in the US attack, and his work with Rafa Benítez at Newcastle United has turned him into a much more astute defender with more tactical awareness. We love you! We love you forever and ever!

That reality isn't lost on the U.S. ahead of two games against two beatable foes on paper.

Midfielder Gabriel Gómez: Still going strong at age 33, the former Union player could make his 135th appearance for the national team in this game.

Having said all this, expectations are for the Stars and Stripes to wrest away the full six points from these two matches. He was, after all, Arena's pick in the first game of two previous sets of qualifying matches, both at home. With the difficulty of the Hex schedule significantly front-loaded this cycle, there are no excuses with respect to running the table from here on out. It would then come down to goal differential if the two teams finished with the same number of points.

Such was US's dominance, Panama made a substitution in the 26th minute.

"We needed a lot of movement against a physical Panama team that was going to sit in and not make it easy for us".

Panama and the United States of America have played four consecutive 1-1 draws, including the qualifier at Panama City in March.

The USMNT closes out the qualifying group on October 10 at Trinidad and Tobago.

The Panamanians responded with good spells of possession after going down 2-0, and forced USA goalkeeper Tim Howard into action for the first time on the night at the half-hour mark. "He's been blowing hot air for a long time", Howard said. "Still some things we can do better, but I think the gameplan was pretty much executed".

Mexico has clinched a spot in the next World Cup while Costa Rica has already clinched at least a spot in the inter-confederation play-offs.

With the road to Russian Federation winding down, the United States are still without a ticket to the big show. We can't start getting into different scenarios, well if we tie or we lose we have to hope these results go a certain way.

Some of the names may change between now and Russian Federation, especially in the center back pairing, as having Geoff Cameron on the bench is not a luxury the U.S. can afford, but the existing formation appears to make the most out of the existing skillset of this group.

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