The United States men’s national team looks better than it has in ages and certainly has its deepest talent pool in years, but all that will mean very little without a win over Panama in World Cup qualifying on Sunday, something it’s done 17 times in 25 tries (losing only thrice, all in Gold Cup matches).
[ LIVE: Scores in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying ]
The Yanks will have gotten a stirring lesson from Italy’s exit from qualifying on Thursday, a reminder that programs with better history and accolades can miss consecutive tournaments if not at their best in the key moments.
[ MORE: How will USMNT line up against Panama? ]
And while Gregg Berhalter’s defenders rose to the occasion in Thursday’s 0-0 draw with Mexico at Azteca, key misses from Christian Pulisic and Jordan Pefok mean the win that could’ve all but sealed a berth in Qatar is a draw that leaves open the door for doubt. Here’s where the strings come in, to borrow a line from Superchunk. If you let them.
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The United States men’s national team is the most talented team in CONCACAF right now. It will make some of you spit-takers out there even more alarmed and aghast when I add that it’s not even particularly close with anyone besides Mexico.
But the way the talent is assembled and motivated at times shows a weakness not in structure but belief, and it’s permeated the social culture around the team.
How to watch USMNT vs Panama World Cup qualifier live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 7pm ET, Sunday (March 27)
All-time series leader: USA – 17 wins, Panama – 3 wins, Draws – 5
Current FIFA rankings: Panama – 63rd, USA – 13th
Live analysis: Here on ProSoccerTalk
TV channel/streaming: FS1, Unimas, TUDN
USMNT vs Panama live analysis! – By Joe Prince-Wright
- Pulisic scores early penalty kick
- Arriola, Ferreira score in quick succession to make it 3-0
- Panama have chances with Zack Steffen looking shaky
- Pulisic scored another penalty kick right on half time to make it 4-0
- Pulisic bags his hat trick with a lovely piece of control, turn and finish to make it 5-0
Player ratings out of 10 | 3 things we learned
Check out our analysis and reaction, as the USMNT have just about clinched their spot at the World Cup!
FULL TIME: USMNT 5-1 Panama – Job done. Barring a catastrophic (and huge) defeat in Costa Rica on Wednesday, the USMNT are going back to the World Cup!
Panama put up a fight late on, as Godoy made it 5-1 with a header. Fair play to them. They are eliminated from qualifying, but never stopped trying in Orlando.
GOALLLL! Oh my. That is majestic. Antonee Robinson whips in a cross and Pulisic takes a lovely touch, turns and finishes to seal his hat trick. 5-0.
Gaps are starting to open up on the break now for the USMNT. Reyna finds Pulisic and he finds Ferreira, but his shot is cleared off the line. Moments later Reyna finds Luca de la Torre with a great pass, who slots in Ferreira but his shot is over the bar.
Predictably it is all Panama in the second half. Steffen, Robinson and Zimmerman get in a bit of a mess but Panama don’t make the most of the chance. That was sloppy from the USMNT.
CHANCE! Straight away, Reyna is played in but he drags his shot wide. Should have been 5-0 to USMNT.
Gio Reyna and Kellyn Acosta come on for Paul Arriola and Yunus Musah at half time.
it is all about not getting any silly injuries now for the USMNT. Pulisic, Adams, Steffen and others will surely get pulled out in the second half. The job is done.
GOALLL! Christian Pulisic scores another penalty kick after Godoy fouls Miles Robinson. Pulisic slots home. It is all kicking off soon after as the benches get involved and Pulisic isn’t happy. USMNT can lose 5-0 at Costa Rica on Wednesday and still qualify automatically for the World Cup. Wow.
Godoy curls a low shot just wide, as Panama continue to pour forward.
Relentless from the USMNT. Panama keep flying forward because they need to win to keep their World Cup hopes alive, but that is leaving plenty of gaps for the U.S. to expose.
GOALLL! Jesus Ferreira slots home another. USMNT flying. 3-0 up inside the first 3-0 minutes. Safe to say the USMNT are at the World Cup.
GOALLL! Paul Arriola heads home Antonee Robinson’s cross. What a header. USMNT in control. 2-0 up.
Wow. Almost a nightmare moment for USMNT. Caught in possession and Zack Steffen does just enough to punch the ball away, but goes down injured. Panama come close to putting the rebound away twice.
GOALLLLL! Christian Pulisic hammers home the spot kick. USA lead 1-0. The home crowd goes wild in Orlando.
PENALTY KICK TO USMNT! Godoy grabs Zimmerman around the throat. Can’t do that. Clear pen.
CLOSE! Christian Pulisic’s corner is almost headed home by Miles Robinson, but Panama half clear and then Ferreira’s rebound is deflected just wide. Noise level is outrageous in Orlando.
CHANCE! A cross is looped out to the edge of the box and Adalberto Carrasquilla hammers a shot just over. Great technique from the Panamanian midfielder. That was superb from the Houston Dynamo man. That shot appears to have woken up the USMNT.
Panama are pressing high early on. Very high. The USMNT haven’t seen much of the ball. Despite that, the home fans are buzzing in Orlando.
KICK OFF! After fireworks were launched into the air, the game is underway. With Costa Rica holding on to win at El Salvador, the scenario is simple for the USMNT. Draw and they will at least finish fourth in the standings. Win and they are all but qualified as Costa Rica will have to beat the USMNT by three and wipe out a hefty USMNT advantage in goal difference on Wednesday.
The teams are out. The anthems are being played. The scene is set. Go time.
For anyone wondering why Reyna isn’t starting today, here is an explanation, of sorts. He’s still on the bench, but it appears several players were impacted.
30 minutes to go until kick off. Things are getting tense.
Under an hour to go until kick off in Orlando…
Well, this is interesting. Shaq Moore starts at right back with Yedlin suspended, while Paul Arriola replaces Tim Weah, Luca de la Torre comes in for Kellyn Acosta and Jesus Ferreira in for Ricardo Pepi. Gregg Berhalter has chosen to not start Gio Reyna and that will surprise many. Perhaps Reyna is primed to be the hero off the bench!? Panama’s lineup sees two changes as Eric Davis and Freddy Gondola come in.
Hello. Another big night for the USMNT’s World Cup dream is coming up. They host Panama in Orlando knowing a win gives them a huge chance of qualifying for the tournament.
Gregg Berhalter’s side know that Panama will be stubborn as they simply have to win to give themselves a chance of reaching a second-straight World Cup.
This USMNT has yet to take the leap into trusting their ascendancy
It’s true and it’s not up for debate. From scheduling away games that risk hypothermia in the hopes of beating a team it almost always beats at home to social media considerations of whether to put their best lineup out against rivals because there’s another game in a few days — against a team that will have traveled just as far and played just as recently (but altitude, they scream!) — it’s a joke.
Look, Liga MX is strong and MLS’ growth has been impossibly fast but the clubs represented by the U.S. roster alone shows you that the gap between the U.S,, Mexico, and the field is huge. Yes, even you Canada, but this is a compliment. The Canadians are almost everything we loved about the USMNT in the early 2000s — out-performing their talent with guile and self-belief that borders on arrogance.
That’s the good way to border arrogance. We saw the bad way in 2017 from a waterlogged pitch in Couva and perhaps it’s made the team and federation sheepish to acknowledge the truth: The money invested in American soccer might not be nurturing the best talents but it’s turning out talent from all corners of the globe.
No team should play down the competition and yes, every team is going to talk about how difficult it is to win. The next time we hear “We’re going to take it three games at a time because El Salvador at home shouldn’t be an issue” will be the first.
But look at the Yanks’ best games. They come with either the implementation of superiority or the swagger of a team who wants the world to know it’s superior. Both silverware-collecting wins over Mexico, the pounding of Honduras at home and away.
And the Yanks have been ascendant (without finish)
The numbers would have a hard time telling any story other than the Yanks are better than the rest. Home or away, the Americans are delivering more danger than the opposition in nearly every match (Stats via Sofascore.com).
at El Salvador — Draw 0-0 -— Shots +6 (13-7); Big chances +3 (3-0)
vs. Canada — Draw 1-1 -— Shots +5 (11-6); Big chances E (2-2)
at Honduras — Win 4-1 -— Shots -6 (12-18) ; Big chances +1 (3-2)
vs. Jamaica — Win 1-0 -— Shots +12 (17-5); Big chances +5 (5-0)
at Panama — Loss 0-1 -— Shots -3 (5-8) ; Big chances -2 (0-2)
vs. Costa Rica — Win 2-1 -— Shots +8 (12-4); Big chances +2 (2-0)
vs. Mexico — Win 2-0 -— Shots +10 (18-8); Big chances +1 (3-2)
at Jamaica — Draw 1-1 -— Shots +3 (9-6); Big chances -1 (0-1)
vs. El Salvador — Win 1-0 -— Shots +11 (17-6); Big chances +5 (5-0)
at Canada — Loss 0-2 -— Shots +5 (13-8); Big chances -2 (0-2)
vs. Honduras — Win 3-0 -— Shots +14 (16-2); Big chances +2 (2-0)
at Mexico — Draw 0-0 — Shots -2 (9-11); Big chances +2 (2-0)
The shot attempts across those games? 152-89
The total for big chances across the first dozen games of the Octagonal? 25-11.
The combined scoreline? 14-7
The Americans have been out-shot twice in 12 matches, and have produced more big chances than the opposition in eight of 12. Five times they’ve allowed zero big chances.
CONCACAF will fear a USMNT that knows it’s better than the opposition and acts like it. We have a feeling that’s what we’ll see on Wednesday against Panama, a team that knows itself and is ready to cast aside the historical failings of 2017.