Christian Pulisic made an outstanding individual move to steal the ball, spin a defender and feed Clint Dempsey for his 56th worldwide goal, and the United States held on for a 1-1 draw against Panama on Tuesday night in World Cup qualifying.
Going into Tuesday night's qualifier, Pulisic had three goals in his seven World Cup Qualifying matches. After two straight losses in this qualifying stage, the Americans achieved their first win of the competition and are now in fourth place with three points.
Sports' Martin Rogers recaps the World Cup qualifying match between the US and Panama.
Fans, nearly all in Panama red, filled about three-quarters of 32,000-capacity Estadio Rommel Fernandez, a two-deck oval with a track.
Now sitting fourth in the Hex standings, the away point gives the US four total after four of 10 Hexagonal matchdays and sees the team securely in the race for CONCACAF's three automatic berths to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russian Federation.
"I thought in the second half we did a little bit better". "We showed a lot more camaraderie".
The U.S. couldn't afford to get too comfortable following the victory.
Panama retaliated with a scrappy goal from Gabriel Gomez just minutes before the half-time whistle and while both sides hunted for a victor in the second half, strong defensive plays from Tim Howard, Tim Ream and Omar Gonzalez helped the US see the game out and earn an important point on the road.
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The top three nations qualify for next year's World Cup in Russian Federation, and the No. 4 team advances to a playoff against Asia's fifth-place nation.
"We're obviously in better shape with four points in two games", he said. We win our home games and don't take another point, we're on 13. After Friday's match, Dempsey spoke at length about his return and desire to continue helping the team in its quest to qualify for an eighth-straight FIFA World Cup.
The U.S. men's national team will feel confident in a number of the other fixtures, including the two ties against Trinidad and Tobago, who they beat 4-0 (home) and drew with 0-0 (away) during the previous round of qualifying and who have already lost to Honduras in this round of matches.
Mexico's win was further helped out by their nearest challengers for the top of the Hex, as Costa Rica dropped points on the road by drawing Honduras in San Pedro Sula. Ream is looking to translate strong form for Fulham into a strong performance for the team, breaking into a loaded center back location.
In the second segment we welcome on our good friend Josie Becker to preview the MLS Western Conference. "We gained ground on everybody other than Mexico, and Mexico right now is an outlier".
The U.S. still moves into fourth place in the hexagonal, which would mean facing off with the fifth-placed team in the Asian Football Confederation for a place in the World Cup. And we haven't even see Arena work with a full-strength pool that includes the likes of Fabian Johnson, DeAndre Yedlin, Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris.
Midfielder Sebastian Lletget - 6: He only lasted 18 minute before a foot injury forced him off.
"I've been very encouraged by what I've seen over the last 10 days", Arena said.
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The Americans began their time together with a new coach and without any points in the CONCACAF standings.
At 38, Howard returned from a leg injury and re-established himself as the No. 1 goalkeeper. With 55 worldwide goals, Dempsey is two short of Landon Donovans U.S. career record of 57.
Clint Dempsey looked like he was fully back from his heart issues collecting a hat trick in the game, Christian Pulisic made his case as being the most indispensable member of the U.S. player pool right now, and even Alejandro Bedoya made important contributions on the pitch. He was repeatedly pushed and tugged and knocked down.
"Panama [had] a bull's-eye on his back and they went after him from minute 1". In CONCACAF they don't defend properly, they just come steaming through. They just come steaming through you. And then the next one comes steaming through.
At least in the minds of the Americans their opponents were twofold, the pumped-up home side hungry for a big scalp, and the Mexican refereeing crew marshaled by Cesar Ramos.
Pulisic took all the fouling in stride. "The referee is on the field to protect both sets of players". He did well. It is a good lesson for him.
"I think we're back on track", said U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati, who attended the match at Rommel Fernandez Stadium.
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