USA defeats Panama 4-0 in vital World Cup Qualifier in Orlando

USA 4 Panama 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 6th October 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

If ever there was a nation in need of a tonic it was the United States and the U.S. Men’s National Team provided that in Orlando on Friday night as they beat Panama by a convincing 4-0 scoreline to boost their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Pressure was on USA to claim all three points in the crucial qualifier, with the Americans occupying fourth position before kick-off and it was teenage sensation Christian Pulisic who provided the spark as he scored the opening goal and set up another as the United States moved a step closer to automatic qualification.

Bruce Arena made a host of changes following USA’s 1-1 draw in Honduras last time out, six in total as Altidore, Tim Howard, Wood, Paul Arriola, DeAndre Yedlin and Jorge Villafana returned to the line-up at the expense of Clint Dempsey, Brad Guzan, Jordan Morris, Kellyn Acosta, Graham Zusi and DaMarcus Beasley.

Panama, who eased past Trinidad and Tobago 3-0 last month, replaced Jose Calderon and Fidel Escobar with Jaime Penedo and Felipe Baloy.

USA 4 Panama 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 6th October 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

The U.S. didn’t have it all their own way in the opening stages and Gabriel Torres (pictured above) might have opened the scoring for the visitors after a long free kick was flicked on by veteran Blas Pérez only for the marksman to fire wide of the right hand post in the seventh minute.

USA 4 Panama 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 6th October 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Borussia Dortmund starlet Pulisic opened the scoring less than a minute later with a stunning finish from a tight angle. Tim Howard’s goal kick was flicked on by Bobby Wood to Jody Altidore who in turn laid the ball neatly into Pulicic’s path and the youngster charged into the penalty box before rounding Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and slotting home.

USA 4 Panama 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 6th October 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

The U.S. then added a second in the 19th minute as Pulisic found himself free on the left hand wing. Some clever trickery worked some space past defender Michael Murillo and the resultant low cross across the six yard box was turned in by an unmarked Altidore (pictured above) to send the 25,303 fans in the Orlando crowd into raptures.

USA 4 Panama 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 6th October 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

The fast start was just what the United States needed to help lift the CONCACAF Gold Cup champions above Panama and into third qualifying position heading into the final matchday of ‘Hexagonal’ qualifying. Altidore’s Panenka penalty in the 43rd minute ended the match as a contest after Bobby Wood was fouled inside the area.

Half Time: United States Men’s National Team 3 Panama 0

The second half didn’t have the same intensity as the U.S. understandably decided not to take any chances but a fourth goal did arrive in the 63rd minute as Bobby Wood (pictured below) finally got the goal he deserved for an excellent performance.

USA 4 Panama 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 6th October 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Wood should have scored in the 22nd minute when he found himself clean through but an outstretched hand by Penedo denied the striker. In the 61st minute Wood again found himself with an opportunity after a 60 yard run that saw him glide past three defenders before firing a wild shot past the left hand upright.

USA 4 Panama 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 6th October 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

The Hamburger SV forward wasn’t to be denied though and he found himself with his back to goal from a Paul Arriola pass two minutes later before turning and releasing a fine strike into the back of the net that gave Penedo no chance.

Full Time: United States Men’s National Team 4 Panama 0

USA are now third in the standings with 12 points after nine matches, two clear of Panama ahead of next week’s trip to Trinidad and Tobago. A win in the Caribbean will see the United States through to the World Cup Finals next Summer.

Lineups:
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 5-Matt Besler, 15-Jorge Villafaña; 4-Michael Bradley (capt.); 21-Paul Arriola, 10-Christian Pulisic (13-Dax McCarty, 57), 6-Darlington Nagbe (11-Alejandro Bedoya, 79); 9-Bobby Wood, 17-Jozy Altidore (8-Clint Dempsey, 71)
Subs not used: 12-Brad Guzan, 22-Nick Rimando, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 14-Tim Ream, 16-Benny Feilhaber, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 19-Graham Zusi, 20-Geoff Cameron, 23-Kellyn Acosta
Head coach: Bruce Arena

PAN: 1-Jaime Penedo; 2-Michael Murillo, 23-Felipe Baloy (4-Fidel Escobar, 46), 5-Román Torres, 6-Gabriel Gòmez; 19-Alberto Quintero, 8-Édgar Bárcenas (11-Armando Cooper, 26), 20-Aníbal Godoy, 17-Luis Ovalle; 9-Gabriel Torres, 7-Blas Pérez (22-Abdiel Arroyo, 60)
Subs not used: 12-José Calderón, 15-Érick Davis, 13-Adolfo Machado, 3-Juan Carlos Vargas, 10-Ricardo Buitrago, 16-José González, 21-Roberto Nurse, 18-Luis Tejada
Head coach: Hernán Darío Gómez

Attendance: 25,303

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