Christian Pulisic pulled the strings and Jozy Altidore grabbed a brace as the United States overran Panama 4-0 in Orlando on Friday to leave them on the verge of automatic qualification for next year's World Cup finals in Russian Federation.
The U.S. responded to the threat of missing World Cup 2018 by unleashing one of its best performances in recent memory on Friday night, thrashing Panama 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier the Americans were desperate to win.
In the process, the Americans moved above Panama into third in the Hexagonal standings, meaning another victory next Tuesday at Trinidad and Tobago would seal the region's third and final automatic berth for Russian Federation.
The top three nations qualify, and fourth place has a home-and-home playoff next month against Australia or Syria - which plays its home games in Malaysia.
Veteran defensive midfielder Graham Zusi meanwhile voiced confidence that the U.S. would get the result they needed."I think you've seen this team respond to pressure well in the past", he told reporers. The cherry on top - an Altidore penalty kick, on a nervy chip after Bobby Wood had been cut down on a run into the area in the 42nd minute - erased all doubt.
"We want to come out flying at the beginning", said Pulisic on Thursday. "We have found a good way in some of these moments to have some flexibility, to be able to tweak how we do things, to give ourselves the best chance to be successful, and we'll see over the next two games how that all comes together". The U.S. team stumbled at the start of the 2018 qualifying matches, and Klinsmann was sacked. With a side who have played an average of 7 years with the national team, Costa Rica are bound to confirm their qualification when they conclude their match against Honduras, making their final game against Panama a formality.
"On the night, we actually didn't finish well", he said. However, if Honduras wins on Friday against Costa Rica, the US could be pushed out of the top four.
Christian Pulisic burst up the field, scoring with a brilliant touch to complete an 11-second, breakneck, field-length attack just eight minutes in.
"Games don't get much bigger", captain Michael Bradley said.
Do I think that Bruce Arena will use this very aggressive, talented, and potentially volatile lineup?
The only concern of the Americans afterward, then, was for Pulisic, who was battered several times and then, finally, so badly that he required treatment after a particularly rough foul at midfield just after halftime. Bet: US victory - P1. He'll continuing leaning on Bradley for leadership and organization in the middle of the formation and on the usual collection of defenders to protect Tim Howard or Brad Guzan in goal.
Pulisic fed Altidore for a 2-0 lead in the 19th.
Altidore one-timed the ball square to a sprinting Pulisic, and the midfielder reached back with his left leg to flick the ball ahead.
And it was the former Sunderland striker who went close early on when his close range shot was charged down before Wood shot inches wide soon after. Pacific Time at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
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