The United States men’s national team now stands a result away from Russia, as Bruce Arena’s men responded with an emphatic beatdown of Panama in Orlando.
Jozy Altidore scored twice, Christian Pulisic had a goal and an assist, and Bobby Wood also scored in the win.
Here are three matters of import from Friday’s blowout, with a trip to Trinidad and Tobago on the docket for a Tuesday match.
We don’t need more than one word, but will provide several more on the 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund man.
Christian Pulisic has been a regular in our “3 Things” posts following Hex matches, but there’s little debating the topic now: He’s the best player on the USMNT, and not far from being the best player in CONCACAF.
The teenager has revolutionized this team and almost single-handedly saved its World Cup hopes, by extension salvaging the eight-cycle progress of the USMNT. (Of course this assumes the Yanks get the appropriate result in T&T).
The 8th minute finish was all you need to see from Pulisic, who had the calm to carry around Jaime Penedo and then slot home from a difficult and acute angle.
He’s here. And he’ll have to fall off precipitously to not become the best player in American history (Sorry, Clint).
By the way, he’s not hurt, as he told Julie Stewart-Binks on television after the match:
“I just got kicked in the calf there at the end, but I’ll be alright.”
CONCACAF killers get rest
The beauty of the Yanks’ waxing Panama is that both Pulisic and Jozy Altidore were able to leave the matches without putting in a full 90 (or even 65).
Altidore is a handful for any team in this confederation to deal with, and we’ve covered Pulisic in depth above.
The possibility of starting a similar lineup on Tuesday, with perhaps Clint Dempsey in for Bobby Wood, should go a long way toward assuring a fresh and ready road win and qualification for Russia.
Again, that’s assuming no significant let down in mentality, no “job’s done” from the gents. Right now, in the afterglow of Friday’s light show, that seems downright impossible.
It’s not over (and it wasn’t perfect)
The score line masked a fairly sloppy defensive first half. The pairing of Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler was a choice for familiarity over prowess, with Arena not starting ready and willing Geoff Cameron.
The bad news? A better finishing team punishes at least two of the errors from Gonzalez and Besler in the first half of what could’ve been 4-2 at the break.
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Gonzalez was megged by 900-year-old Blas Perez, and Besler’s twin mistakes weren’t as glaring but weren’t welcome. Granted an elbow made sure both his eyes were bandaged, but this side needs to schedule November friendlies against decent attacks to see if Matt Miazga and some of its other center back options are legit for the roster in Russia.
The chances were wide open in the first half, and it’ll be harder if those chances are handed to Kevin Molino and Joevin Jones.
The good news is that Cameron and Tim Ream are both available for Tuesday in Trinidad and Tobago, should that be Arena’s plan (he’s liked his rotation).
The better news is the desperation and energy on display from not just Pulisic and Altidore, but Paul Arriola and DeAndre Yedlin. If Michael Bradley is the cylinder in the engine of the U.S. midfield and Pulisic is the motor, then Arriola was a firing piston.
Even experienced old hats like Tim Howard were fired up for this one, and will be sure to have the men ready on Tuesday.