The US Men’s national team needed a win on Friday night in hopes of avoiding a playoff to get into next summer’s World Cup, and they got just that, beating Panama by a resounding 4-0 scoreline. Christian Pulisic scored in the 8th minute to help calm the nerves for the US, who entered the game in fourth place in the Hexagonal stage of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Jozy Altidore scored off an assist from Pulisic, and then added a penalty before the break, as the US did their best to take advantage of an outmatched Panamanian defense.
Bobby Wood added the fourth in the second half, off an assist from Paul Arriola. The win moved the United States up to third place in the Hex, a position that would get them into the tournament automatically next June. Depending on the result between Honduras and Costa Rica tomorrow, the US could ensure their qualification on Tuesday in Trinidad & Tobago with a draw.
Needing a win, the US wasted little time on Friday night in Orlando, as Pulisic started the party in the 8th minute. A header from Wood, a flick from Altidore, and Pulisic was away towards goal. The youngster rounded Jaime Penedo in goal, and then rolled the ball into the empty net for the lead. Pulisic then turned creator for Altidore in the 19th minute, bringing the ball into the box, before rolling the ball across the goal, where Altidore emphatically slammed home his first goal of the night.
Wood won the penalty for Altidore’s second goal of the half, beating several defenders on the wing, before getting tripped up in the box. Altidore beat Penedo with a paneka, a chip right down the middle, as the keeper dove to his left.
Arriola, who was the first D.C. United player to play a game in the Hex for the US since Santino Quaranta in October 2005, against Panama, had a chance for an assist before the penalty, but Wood couldn’t convert the opportunity on the counter attack. On the other side of the half though, Arriola worked himself into the box with the ball, and then fed Wood, who did well to turn and shoot, adding the final tally in the 63rd minute.
The US has their chance to get into the World Cup on Tuesday, as they had to Trinidad & Tobago, who currently occupy the last spot in the Hex.