Panama vs USA: The USMNT will go for a third straight victory when they visit Los Canaleros in 2022 World Cup qualifying on Sunday (Watch live, at 6 pm ET on NBC Universo).
After dropping points in its first two games of World Cup qualifying, the USMNT has since rebounded with a 4-1 victory in Honduras last month and a 2-0 victory over Jamaica on Thursday. 18-year-old striker Ricardo Pepi bagged the winner (on his USMNT debut) against Honduras and followed that up with a two-goal outing in cap no. 2.
Pepi, along with the rest of the USMNT attack, roared to life in the second half after 45 frustrating minutes of struggling to connect passes in the final third. Full backs Sergiño Dest and Antonee Robinson were key cogs in the uprising, as they got forward on the right and left, respectively, to stretch Jamaica’s defense wider and wider. Dest got the assist for Pepi’s first goal and Robinson played the pass before the pass to set up his second.
[ MORE: Ricardo Pepi linked with Bundesliga move ]
For 45 minutes, the USMNT played Berhalterball to perfection: they pressed and harried for two-thirds of the field and allowed precious little into the final third; they looked eager to launch counter-attacks immediately after winning the ball back from said pressing, rather than slowly building out of the back or passing the ball backwards or sideways; they got the ball wide (to the full backs, when things were working) and sent multiple runners to crash the penalty area when the inevitable cross came in; they got on the end of two crosses to score two goals (and missed a third, the easiest of the bunch, by an inch or two).
USMNT injury, team news vs Panama
Berhalter’s boys picked up one additional injury in Thursday’s game, as a quad ailment will keep Weston McKennie in the United States while (most of) the rest of the team travels to Panama. Zack Steffen and Antonee Robinson will also travel straight to Columbus, site of Wednesday’s clash with Costa Rica, due to UK travel restrictions.
Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna and John Brooks remain in Europe due to injuries.
USMNT lineup vs Panama
Walker Zimmerman will captain the USMNT and play next to Mark McKenzie at center back.
Matt Turner will reprise his role in goal with Zack Steffen staying in the U.S. due to the UK’s COVID restrictions, and Shaq Moore and George Bello will play fullback.
Yunus Musah, Kellyn Acosta, and Sebastian Lletget will draw midfield duty with Paul Arriola and Tim Weah on the wings. Gyasi Zardes starts at center forward.
Sunday Fútbol in Panamá.
3 points up for grabs. Let's do this.
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) October 10, 2021
How to watch USMNT and CONCACAF World Cup qualifying
CONCACAF World Cup qualifying: NBC’s Telemundo Deportes and Universo, CBS Sports Network, Paramount+
USMNT qualifying so far
How have Panama fared thus far?
Panama’s World Cup bid was progressing quite well before qualifying action resumed on Thursday. With five points from their first three games (win over Jamaica, draws with Costa Rica and Mexico), Thomas Christiansen’s side sat 3rd in the table with a tricky, but manageable, trip to El Salvador up first. The 1-0 defeat is hardly an embarrassment for Panama after the USMNT themselves settled for a draw in San Salvador on matchday 1.