The U.S. Men’s National Team raced to a three-goal halftime lead and cruised to a dominating 4-0 victory over Panama on Friday night in Orlando, Fla. in their penultimate game of the CONCACAF Hexagonal for World Cup qualifying.
The U.S. side now needs just a draw against last-place Trinidad & Tobago to secure a spot in Russia 2018. Even with a loss in that match, the U.S. still stands a good chance to make the field. The U.S. is two points ahead of Panama, which will host second-place Costa Rica in its final match.
Jozy Altidore assisted on the opening goal then scored twice in the first half — including one on a penalty kick — for the U.S. and Christian Pulisic added a goal and an assist before the break.
The USMNT is 13-1-6 all-time vs. Panama, including 6-0-2 in World Cup qualifying matches. The two sides had a 1-1 draw in Panama City earlier in qualifying.
Bobby Wood erased any doubt of a Panama comeback when he one-timed it past Panamanian goalkeeper Jaime Penedo early in the second half. Paul Arriolo dribbled through the defense before feeding Wood just inside the 18. Wood turned and fired it past Penedo.
Both sides had great scoring chances in the opening six minutes.
Wood’s shot from inside the box missed the goal by about five feet. Panama’s Gabriel Torres then had the ball at the top of the U.S. box, but missed to the right of the U.S. goal by about 10 feet.
Pulisic finally responded in the eighth minute.
He picked up a nice touch from Altidore and raced past the defense. His initial effort was challenged by Penedo, but he was not deterred. He redirected the ball to the right, then sliced a shot at a sharp angle into the open Panama goal.
Pulisic then set up Altidore for the second goal in the 19th minute. Pulisic gathered the ball on the left wing, waited for the defense to set up, then fed Altidore at the edge of the 6-yard box for the easy goal and a 2-0 lead.
Penedo briefly kept the U.S. from going up 3-0 in the 40th minute when he stopped Altidore all alone in the less side of the box. But moments later, Altidore gave the U.S. the 3-0 lead when he converted on a penalty kick in the 43rd minute. Wood earned the penalty when he was tackled in the box on a run.
Panama controlled possession, owning a 61-39 advantage in the first half, but it was outshot 9-4.