ORLANDO, FL – After covering the United States Men’s National Soccer Team in the hostile environment of Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, tonight’s USA win was refreshing.
The United States dominated the team from Panama 5-1, giving them a very strong chance at a spot in the upcoming World Cup.
Christian Pulisic pulled a hat trick with three goals, while enduring the normal abuse from opposing team, often sent flying into the turf.
The Americans needed the win to set up a final chance in Costa Rica to qualify. Costa Rica scored the chance with a 2-1 win over El Salvador earlier in the day.
The sellout crowd of 25,022 in Orlando roared as the US dominated Panama, almost erasing the embarrassment of Panama bouncing the US out of contention in the past. This game was different.
Orlando has been a good place for the USMNT. The US has now outscored opponents 20-2 at Exploria Stadium in four matches. The timing couldn’t be more perfect.
“We knew we were in a position where the group needed to respond,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said after the game. “When I look at the effort and intensity of the first half and the level that we’re playing, it was really impressive. You can see exactly what the guys took on and their motivation to get back to the World Cup.”
The red, white, and blue got their footing early.
Referee Ivan Barton consulted with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for a possible penalty after Anibal Godoy appeared to foul Walker Zimmerman inside the box.
The resulting penalty kick was at the foot of Pulisic, who converted the kick in the 17th minute for aa 1-0 lead.
In the 23rd minute, Antonee Robinson sent a cross in to Paul Arriola, who headed it in for a 2-0 US lead.
The U.S. increased its lead to 3-0 in the 27th minute when Luca de la Torre fed a through-ball to Shaq Moore, who then crossed the ball to Arriola. He turned and found Jesus Ferreira to slot the ball past the goalkeeper.
During first half stoppage time, Pulisic made it a 4-0 game by sining in another penalty kick into the upper right corner of the net.
Robinson secured his second assist to help Pulisic secure his hat trick after his cross found the Chelsea winger, who managed to finish off a cross and strike the ball to make it 5-0 in the 65th minute.
Panama managed to take one back for pride with a goal in the 86th minute when Gaby Torres’ free kick connected with Godoy, who headed the ball past goalkeeper Zack Steffen to reduce the U.S. lead to 5-1.
The United States now heads to Costa Rica for a 9:05 p.m. kickoff that will stream live on Paramount Plus. The U.S. is three points ahead of fourth-place Costa Rica and, due to a superior goal differential, would need to lose to Costa Rica by at least six goals to be in any trouble of not qualifying.