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USMNT thrashes Panama to reach the brink of World Cup qualification


ORLANDO — The U.S. men’s national team knew before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier kicked off that there would be no celebration on this night for clinching a place in the World Cup, but that didn’t stop the Americans from ensuring that the timing of that eventual celebration is a ‘when’ rather than an ‘if’.

Four first-half goals, including a pair of Christian Pulisic penalty kicks and finishes from FC Dallas teammates Jesus Ferreira and Paul Arriola, helped put the game out of reach before halftime.

Pulisic added the goal of the night in the second half to provide some icing on the cake of an eventual 5-1 romp at Exploria Stadium.

The Americans can now secure their place in Qatar with a win or a draw on Wednesday in Costa Rica, or a loss by 5-0 or fewer. The USMNT is also guaranteed at least a fourth-place finish in the Octagonal, which would mean playing the winner of the Oceania region if the Americans wind up finishing in fourth place.

Costa Rica’s 2-1 win over El Salvador earlier on Sunday ensured that the USMNT could not qualify automatically on Sunday, and it also put pressure on Panama to avoid a defeat that would eliminate them from World Cup qualifying.

It was the Americans who responded well to that pressure, dominating the proceedings all night.

The USMNT struck first in the 17th minute after a VAR review caught Panama’s Anibal Godoy fouling his Nashville SC teammate Walker Zimmerman in the penalty area. Pulisic blasted the penalty home to help set the early tone.

Pulisic played a part in the second American goal just six minutes later when he settled a long ball in the penalty area and passed it back to a wide-open Antonee Robinson, who delivered a perfect cross in to the six-yard box, where Arriola elevated to head it home to make the score 2-0

Arriola played provider on the third USMNT goal, setting up Ferreira in an all-FC Dallas goal in the 27th minute, capping off a 20-pass sequence with the Ferreira finish.

The Americans appeared content to go into halftime with a three-goal cushion before Godoy gave the USMNT another gift when he was whistled for a foul in the penalty area on Miles Robinson that drew an immediate penalty call. Pulisic stepped up to the spot once again and hit another blast to make the score 4-0.

The second half was more about managing minutes, avoiding and staying away from yellow cards that could lead to suspensions and the USMNT managed all three as Gregg Berhalter used all five subs, and removed Pulisic and Tyler Adams so the two stars will be available to face Costa Rica.

Panama scored a consolation goal in the 86th minute via a Godoy header, but that finish was a formality since it doesn’t change the margin of victory Costa Rica will need on Wednesday to surpass the USMNT for the final World Cup qualification spot.

The Americans will now head to Costa Rica in search of their first World Cup qualifying victory in the Central American country, knowing a win, draw or defeat by fewer than six goals will secure their return to the World Cup.


  1. I was just reading up and Brian Sciaretta posted that CR has 9 players on yellows who would be suspended from the Playoff if they got a yellow against US. Maybe that means CR rests most of them or it means the ref will give a lot of finger wags and leave his cards in the locker room. It’s absolutely ridiculous that these cards have accumulated over 14 matches. Especially if a CR player is suspended when NZ or Solomon Islands has only played 5 qualifying matches.

    • Costa Rica may be a lot of things but they aren’t fools. They almost certainly aren’t beating the USMNT 6-0 and if they did Mexico isn’t losing 2-0 to El Salvador.

      Of course something fairly similar was required in 2017 and we know how that went.

      But realistically, their best chance is that playoff.
      I expect CR to bench their important at risk card guys. Or , as Keller suggested, forfeit 3-0 and be certain that their best will be ready for the playoff.

  2. Why is Long in the team over Brooks and CCV? He’s played 4 or 5 games since his return?

    Anyone else notice how Long coughed up the ball then fouled the Panamanian leading to the free kick on which they scored the goal?

    • The way we are pressing those two can’t play CB for us. They do not have the speed to do what Zimmerman and Robinson do. Long appears to have regained most of his speed but is rusty. To be fair that was a pretty soft foul but the ref was feeling bad for Panama and trying to keep emotions in check. Long has all MLS to knock off the rust, but he’ll have to compete with Richards, McKenzie, and maybe Che if he gets minutes at Hoffenheim because those three all certainly are fast enough.

      • Based on Gregg’s call-ups our CB pool are Zimmerman, Robinson, Richards…
        Long & McKenzie are fighting for the 4th CB spot in the 23….and I’d say that Long has the edge as he’s one of Gregg’s guys (2 camp call-ups w/out playing a game…3rd camp call-up after 3 or 4 matches played). EPB, Brooks, Che, & CCV are the odd men out. Only way they’re going to make the WC is if we have a rash of injuries.

      • Johnny’s – I agree; only locks right now are Zimm and MRob. There is a distinct possibility that more than 23 will be allowed on the roster like in Euros which may create a 5th spot.

      • With Brooks and CCV, I think you are correct. The only thing I can see is for the WC when we won’t necessarily be the most talented team in the pitch we may not press as high and might need a big CB if we are absorbing pressure. Che is a little different because he hasn’t been playing after his move to Hoffenheim until last week and had been forced to play RB last season for FCD. He wasn’t anywhere near ready last Fall and this Winter. If he plays these last two month’s, has a good Summer for U20s, and plays in the Bundesliga next fall he’s athletic enough to bump into the top 4 or 5. Brooks and CCV are just not fast enough to cover the ground in our defensive system. It’s the same issue Miazga has. EPB has been getting consistent minutes where McKenzie hasn’t so I give him a chance to move in over Mark, if Mark can’t find minutes.

  3. Such a fun night. Even though I had a fair bit of confidence we’d pull it out- there was a huge relief when we scored a few goals early. Was nice to watch a game not on pins and needles the whole time. A few selection decisions aside- GB got a lot right this window and had the boys ready to play. Good on Gregg!

    We play it right- we have a very good shot at a win in San Jose.
    The best way for CR to win this game is to do what they do best- slow the game down, scrap, claw, grind, dive, nick a goal on a broken play or set piece and waste time- hold on. But that does nothing for them. If they do what they must to go for the goal deficit to leapfrog us- and we stay organized and counter a stretched, old, slow, tired CR team, the likely outcome is we scorch them. Lets finish this off on a high note!!!

  4. Alright…so firstly WE ARE GOING TO QATAR!!!
    No matter what happens in CR (the playoff is in Qatar)

    So I’m looking forward to WC prep. And so what is there? Nations League and two international windows? And a seven day camp before the first game for Group A?

  5. Good win for the US. Huge that we won by multiple goals to pad our goal differential. We now need to go to CR and try and win the game.

    • I think If USA had beaten Mexico, and we did go and get the win against costs rica, that might have been enough to propel us into the top 7, and a spot in pot 1, of the top seeds for the Qatar World Cup. As is, even a close loss to the ticos would be enough to not just see us qualify, but to do so in the second pot of teams, which means at least two teams in our group will be ranked lower than us, possibly more, if we are drawn into a group with Qatar, or rise in the rankings before the cup starts.

      • Heaven help whoever gets Canada in their group…they’re going to be an absolute bracket wrecker. It honestly wouldn’t shock me if Canada made a run to the quarters at the least, they seem to be clicking like that right now and they’re at least as dangerous and probably more than Costa Rica was in 2014. On paper, no, they shouldn’t, but you combine the kind of team chemistry they’ve got with this group with their ability to break and counter and a whole lot of Eurosnobs are going to wind up huffing their exhaust fumes and wondering WHAT on Earth just hit them. Especially since Canada is unlikely to even break the Top 30 in the FIFA rankings.

  6. The start of the game there were a lot of nerves. After the 2nd goal things started to settle down, but we were not as dominant as the score line indicated.
    Congratulations to Moore for flying in and doing a job. That said he was the weak link and was targeted all night by the Panamanians. I firmly believe that Scally would have been a better choice and would have performed as well or better.

    End of the day we did what needed to be done. Now onto CR, where we need to play smart. After CR we’ll just need to get and keep people healthy.

  7. Shaq Moore was one of the most important players tonight. He flies in from Spain and gives a pretty darn good performance. Good on him.

  8. I don’t care what the goal differential is, the US should play CR like they need to win. This is the last game in qualifying, so there is no reason to rest players, worry about yellow card accumulation, or take it easy.

  9. CP 10 MOTM, and, for me, LDT a close 2nd. He helped keep and move the ball very well. Nothing spectacular, but clean touches that helped create more than a few attacking chances. Goal scorers aside, A Rob, Adams, and Zimm also stood out.
    Champagne on ice for Wednesday — either to toast, or, if the 6-0 should happen, to guzzle.

  10. This whole campaign Costa Rica has never beaten any team by more than 1 goal. This last game against El Salvador they won 2-1; the only game where they have scored more than 1 goal.

  11. Hard to believe the World Cup draw is less than. A week away. Dream group for the USA. Qatar, USA, Iran, Scotland We owe Iran from 98, Might be too easy of a group though

      • Can’t the USMNT just forfeit the match and still advance? I believe that would be an automatic 3-0 result which would qualify the team correct?

      • Yeah, if you want to piss off the soccer gods! Lets take the high road to winning the World Cup, not the low one. Make sure your friends understand this, please.

    • Sorry, USA have a +10 goal differential over Costa Rica. That means if the ticos win by five goals, we’d both have the same goal differential. Goals count double in this last game. It’s kind of like a six pointer.

    • Dennis – the magic number is 6 because every goal for CR is a goal against US. Goal differential is 1st tie breaker and number of goals is second so if they win by 5, the goal differential is tied but US would have more goals.

    • They would actually have to lose 5-0, because as the US loses a goal in goals allowed, Costa Rica would gain 1…

      I think we are good! LOL

    • Because we’re playing CR every goal they score subtracts one from our goal difference. So they’d need to win by 6 goal advantage (I believe GF would put us up if it was only 5-0).

    • Not exactly how it works. You’re forgetting that each goal CR scores in a direct matchup actually reduces the deficit by 2 (+1 to CR and -1 to the US). So given our +10 advantage that would imply a 5 goal deficit. But it’s actually 6, since the US would own the secondary tiebreaker (goals scored). So CR would need to beat us by 6 goals.
      After that there remains a “Mexico loses” angle, but this is very out there stuff

  12. It is depth that has carried this team to the brink. 4 top players injured, 2 out with card suspensions, and yet an impressive result. Hats off to a 4th string right back in Moore flying in from Spain and puts in a solid 90 minutes. Costa Rica is likely content with a playoff with New Zealand, and they won’t make up the GD, and that includes Mexico.

    No pressure for 3 points, and it looks like everyone is available Wednesday,

    And giving credit where it is due, Berhalter got the lineup and tactics right.


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