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USMNT: World Cup dreams still alive

The United States Men’s National Team still can qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Bruce Arena’s team earned a must-need victory at Orlando City Stadium Friday against Panama. The final score had the USMNT blanking Panama, 4-0.

Christian Pulisic, the “Wonder boy” (dubbed by Alexi Lalas), scored the opening goal in the 8′ minute. The goal was assisted by Jozy Altidore.

“We needed a win, but the job’s not done,” Pulisic said.

Altidore caused his own problems for the Panama defense. The striker’s first goal occurred in the 19′ minute, assisted by Pulisic, but his second came right before the halftime whistle.

“He was able to just disrupt them in so many ways, and you saw the difference he can make in the middle of the park, being able to go each way and just being so dynamic,” Altidore said. “I hate to kind of pour too much praise on him. I know he’s a young kid. He’s got a lot of work to do. But you can’t help not see the difference he makes when he’s on the field, especially when he’s in the middle of everything.”

Armando Cooper, who entered the match in the 26′ minute, was shown a yellow card for fouling United States striker Bobby Wood in the penalty area. Altidore lined up to take the penalty, and scored on a paneka.

Altidore sent the shot right down the middle, tricking goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.

In the second half, Wood, who was a menace the whole night for Panama, earned a goal of his own in the 63′ minute, sealing the win.

“We’re well positioned to hopefully qualify for Russia. The game in Trinidad is not going to be an easy one,” Arena said. “This team went from 0-2 in November with a minus-five goal differential, we’re now at plus-what, five, right?”

“I know everyone thought we were going to qualify in whatever, six games in 2017,” Arena continued. “It doesn’t happen that way. So I think we’re moving along well. We’ve advanced from sixth to third position with goal differential. Now we have to finish it off on Tuesday in Trinidad.”

Panama had chances, taking nine shots in the match, with two on goal. However, United States goalkeeper Tim Howard stepped up when fired at.

No United States player received a yellow or red card.

For Panama, three yellow cards were shown to Cooper, Felipe Baloy and Michael Murillo.

In goal for Panama, Penedo made four saves.

The United States will continue their World Cup qualifying campaign on Tuesday, heading down to Trinidad & Tobago for their final Hexagonal match.

To qualify for the World Cup, the United States must win or draw in the match. They currently sit in third place, with 12 points.

Mexico is already qualified for the World Cup with 21 points. Costa Rica is in second place with 15 points, and close to qualifying. Should Costa Rica win on Saturday against Honduras, they will qualify.

Tuesday’s match between the United States and Trinidad & Tobago will occur at 8 p.m. ET. The match will air on beIN SPORTS.

“The job isn’t quite done yet,” USMNT captain Michael Bradley said. “We’ve got enjoy this, use it for confidence and spirit and make sure that come Tuesday we’re ready to finish the job.”


Photo of Christian Pulisic courtesy of John Raoux/Associated Press.

Follow @RachaelMcKriger on Twitter for all USMNT coverage.

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Rachael McKriger
Sports Journalist

Rachael McKriger writes for RSEN Report (Lead Editor), Pittsburgh Sports Castle (Content Editor), Mon Goals and W2M Network, in addition to being a sports stringer/reporter for the Mon Valley Independent newspaper.

A senior of California Univ. of Pennsylvania, you can follow her on Twitter, @RachaelMcKriger, where you can find all of her articles. Search “McKriger Photography” on Facebook, to see her photos.

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