The U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team dominated Panama last night 4-0 in front of a raucous sold out crowd (25,303) in Orlando. With the victory, the USA (3-3-3; 12 pts.) jumps over Panama and into third place in CONCACAF’s Final Round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup heading into its Matchday 10 visit to Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday.
The U.S. signaled its intent five minutes into the match when Altidore’s low cross from the left found Bobby Wood at the penalty spot, before the forward pulled his effort just past the right post.
Three minutes later in the eighth minute, a goal kick from Tim Howard was headed on by Wood to Altidore. The veteran forward played a simple pass into stride for Christian Pulisic, who breezed through the Panama back line and rounded goalkeeper Jaime Penedo before tucking his shot over the line.
While he has recorded four goals and four assists during the Final Round of qualifying, Pulisic has contributed in some way to 11 of the USA’s 15 goals
Pulisic put on a clinic, repeatedly streaking towards the Panamanian defense over and over in the match. They could not contain him. Later in the match, Panama turned to rough housing Pulisik, resulting in USA coach Bruce Arena to pull him. The game was well in the USA’s hand at that point.
Jozy Altidore scored his 40th international career goal in the 19th minute when he tapped in a perfect pass from Pulisic, doubling TEAM USA’s score to 2-0. The MNT is 11-0-1 when Altidore scores in World Cup Qualifying.
The third goal came just before halftime thanks in large part to the hard work of Wood, who navigated through three Panama defenders before being hauled down by Armando Cooper in the penalty area, forcing referee Roberto Garcia to the foul and giving the U.S. a penalty shot. Altidore calmly lobbed his effort straight down the middle to give the USA a 3-0 lead in 43rd minute.
With eight goals, Altidore leads all active CONCACAF players in scoring during 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying and sits one behind leader Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala).
Panama began the second half with a noted increase in pressure, getting a lot of balls into the U.S. defensive end. The USA’s defensive back line was strong however, and gave Panama few chances at clean shots on goal. Tim Howard spent little time chasing balls, with only 2 saves. Panama managed only 2 shots on goal in the match, compared to USA’s 8, with 15 total shots for the Americans.
Wood got his name on the score sheet in the 63rd minute. He passed the ball out to the right for Arriola, who cut inside and laid off for Wood. Wood took one touch and pivoted before slotting his 10th career international goal past Penedo and inside the left post.
Altidore’s two goals took his international tally to 41. The brace also pulled Altidore back into a tie with Clint Dempsey as joint-leaders atop the U.S. MNT’s all-time World Cup Qualifying goals list with 18.
The MNT can book its ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a win at Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday, Oct. 10. Matchday 10 kickoff from Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, Trinidad is set for 8 p.m. ET