171007 USA Panama recap

Brad Guzan and USMNT take one step closer to 2018 FIFA World Cup

On Friday night, the U.S. Men’s National Team earned a crucial three points in World Cup Qualifying on home soil with a 4-0 victory over Panama at Orlando City Stadium in Florida.

Heading into the match, the United States sat in 4th place in the final stage of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup – also known as “The Hex” – for the final six teams remaining in the region. With Panama, Honduras and the United States all within a point of each other, Friday night’s match was vital for a push to finish in the top three to earn a spot in next year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.

It’s been a battle for the number one goalkeeper position in 2017 between Atlanta’s Brad Guzan and Tim Howard. While Guzan was chosen to guard the net in their previous match against Honduras, on Friday, head coach Bruce Arena favored Howard for the night’s match against Panama.

From start to finish it was all U.S.A. with incredible pace, skill and efficiency in transition on display. First it was Jozy Altidore who played the young Christian Pulisic through in a foot race with the defense, who then dribbled around the opposing keeper to open the scoring. Then for the second, they swapped roles as Pulisic showcased some nifty footwork to get past a Panama defender and lay a dime across the six-yard box for Altidore to tap in. To end the first half, Bobby Wood proved he can be not only physical but agile as well as he split a few Panama defenders before being pulled down in the box to earn a penalty. Altidore stepped up to take it and made no mistake with a cheeky chip down the middle of the net to make it three. Their fourth and final goal came in the second half when Wood grabbed one of his own slotting it inside the post to seal the deal.

With the victory, the United States jumped past Panama in the standings and now sit in 3rd place in the Hex with 12 total points. Their final match of the Hex is set for Tuesday night where the United States could officially punch their ticket to Russia as they travel to Trinidad & Tobago.