US rout Panama, edge closer to World Cup

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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 Americans now hold down the third and final automatic berth from CONCACAF and can clinch a trip to Russian Federation next summer with a win Tuesday night at last-place Trinidad and Tobago.

Simple math tells us that with a loss, the United States would be competing only for fourth, and flying out to Australia or Malaysia (where Syria play home games) as part of a two-leg Asian playoff.

Friday night, the United States takes on Panama in Orlando in what can only be described as a massive contest. Now they face Panama in Orlando in a game that could very well push the the outside looking in.

Los Canaleros have a large contingent who play in Major League Soccer, and they will not fear the passion of the crowd as they protect their goal.

The U.S. are still not guaranteed a spot at next year's World Cup, as results from Saturday's Costa Rica-Hondura match and Tuesday's final round will affect the outcome in the standings.

The United States is among seven countries - and the only one from CONCACAF - to participate in every World Cup since 1990.

"Last November we were 0-2 with a minus five goal differential, so we have had a 10-goal change since then and we are doing well".

The U.S. were favorites going into both games, but Panama have proved to be stubborn opponents. 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.

Friday's World Cup qualifier against Panama will mark the first USA game since President Donald J. Trump made derogatory remarks about National Football League players who kneel for the anthem, going so far as to say they should be fired. If the US draws on Friday but Honduras beats Costa Rica on Saturday, then Honduras will vault over both the USA and Panama in the table entering the final day of matches on Tuesday.

Arena needed his side to heap early pressure onto a Panama side who have been notoriously hard to break down, conceding just five goals in their prior matches of the six-nation final round of qualifying.

They did not have to pay for their sins and, before intermission, Altidore added the third goal on a 43rd-minute penalty kick.

His eighth-minute goal was a masterclass of skill, athleticism and speed of thought.

Panama will be looking for payback as four years ago, the USA national team snatched Panama's hopes of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Mexico (5-0-3) has clinched.

Bobby Wood closed out the scoring in the 63rd minute, while Tim Howard recorded the clean sheet for the Americans. For two matches before the end of the selection, Panama with 10 points and goal difference 7: 5 takes 3 lines in the table and directly goes to the Mundial. "From the get-go in this Hex, we've been in a situation where our back has been up against the wall, and we've played in games where we need to win, we need points and there's been a real sense of urgency".