Pulisic, the 19-year-old wonder from Hershey, Pennsylvania, made sure his team didn't fall into deeper peril. There was a 20-minute or so spell after the second goal when the squad shut off and the defense looked susceptible to a goal, as it's been so many times in qualifying. A win would go a long way for an American team looking to fight its way to a World Cup berth.The Americans have a few key storylines that loom over Friday night's clash.
It was Pulisic who set the tone early, going right at Panama's normally stingy defense from the start, with his speed and confident dribbling tearing through opposing defenders easily.
Eleven minutes later, Pulisic was the provider when he put a banana pass in front of Altidore, who tapped it through to make it soften the cushion. Jozy Altidore and Christian Pulisic led the way in the romp, with Altidore bagging a brace and delivering an assist while Pulisic scored one goal and set up another.
"We've had a great year despite what some of you people think", Arena said in the postgame press conference, his wry smile only slightly masking what was likely some true annoyance.
As Arena noted, Bradley's son is USA captain Michael Bradley - hinting that the 59-year-old's presence in Orlando isn't just about contributing to the US staff. "I'm happy I was able to contribute a little bit, and contribute a goal". I'd be more okay with this if the overly cautious lineup didn't trip over itself to concede the dumbest goals possible, but a team that neither sells out to put its stars in the best possible position to score goals nor prevents goals on the other end is a poorly set-up team. First runner-up in that race will have to face a third place team from the Asian region, either Australia or Syria.
The US team sitting fourth in the table with 9 points need to win this match at any cost if they want to grab an automatic berth to Russian Federation 2018. Something more. Something different from what the United States produced against Costa Rica or Mexico. This time we gave them space and that was the error.
Of course, the USMNT should beat Panama easily, but they haven't really done anything they should be doing throughout qualifying. At the least, probably a touch more of a defensive look for the Americans than the 4-1-3-2 they trotted out against Panama.
So this Christian Pulisic kid might be pretty good. It was also his 13th overall cap for the U.S. Men's National Team. In the matches since, the USA attack had grown a bit predictable and overly reliant on Pulisic, which made it easy for opposing defenses to neutralize the Americans.
Pulisic finally responded in the eighth minute.
Panama had its only clear opportunity of the night early on but Gabriel Torres wasted a good counterattack by shooting high and wide of the frame from just outside the penalty area instead of playing Alberto Quintero in.
The game kicks off Friday night at 7:35 Eastern time and is being televised on ESPN2 and Univision Deportes.
Brazil women protest: A group of former Brazilian women's national team players have signed an open letter criticizing their federation following the dismissal of coach Emily Lima.
Arena started five attacking players, with Pulisic flanked by Darlington Nagbe and Paul Arriola, and Altidore and Wood up top. "He did what he wanted".
"I really don't build a team around one player". Arena said. "I know everyone thought we were going to qualify in whatever, six games in 2017". The Americans play Ghana on Monday in New Delhi and Colombia on Thursday at Navi Maubai. It wasn't televised live because ABC preempted it to report on USA military attacks in Afghanistan. It goes beyond our soccer universe; you start seeing it on major news networks.