With Christian Pulisic Driving, United States Steers Closer to World Cup

2:10 | Soccer         Why Soccer in America Would Take Big Blow if USMNT Can't Qualify for 2018 World Cup

Hence, Panama need to win at least one match to put themselves in a safe position and the best possible chance of a win is against the struggling U.S. team.

Panama, who drew 1-1 with the United States in Panama City in March, will likely qualify for Russian Federation if they win in Florida on Friday.A draw would also work in Panama's favour, leaving them needing only to beat Costa Rica - who by that stage may already have qualified - next Tuesday to book a first ever place at the World Cup. The goal sent Panama home and Mexico into the fourth place playoff. In their last two matches, they have scored three times in the first half an hour of the game.

Former Premier League goalkeeper Tim Howard was the first to be criticized by Lalas, who said, "The Belgium game ended three years ago; we need you to save the ball now". While their final two games can go horribly wrong, the USMNT now controls its own destiny.

Fourth in the North and Central American and Caribbean region with two games left, the Americans can still earn one of the region's three automatic berths. T&T are rooted firmly at the bottom of the table. American soccer fans are now accustomed to seeing the US dominate CONCACAF competition, but this cycle has been hard for the Americans.

Johnson has played 118 minutes this season for Germany's Borussia Moenchengladbach and was ineffective in last month's qualifier against Costa Rica, a 2-0 home loss that increased pressure on the Americans. In fact, the USA have lost more matches at home during the Hex than away. The last time these two teams played it was a 1-1 game, the Americans can not afford to repeat that result and should go in hungry for the three points from the game.

A draw or defeat means the best the USA can hope for is a two-legged play-off against either Australia or Syria. Which of Paul Arriola and Darlington Nagbe is more essential to the USA gameplan? While all have had their moments, all have had issues this cycle.

Sixteen years later, a new era of Americans faces a must-win game at a politically fraught time.

Costa Rica have a very experienced side playing in the qualifiers which include the likes of Keylor Navas, Bryan Ruiz, Celso Borges, Michael Umana, and Cristian Bolanos, just to name a few. He was then replaced by the ever-ageless DaMarcus Beasley for the Honduras match.

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Moving up the field, there is a deep generation gap that is still transitioning.

Bradley plays the deep defensive midfield with Accosta next to him (slightly higher) and Christian Pulisic will play a true 10 for this team, positioned in front of Bradley and Accosta and rigth behind the forwards. One can't doubt his abilities, as he has more goals for club and country than Lionel Messi and Crisitano Ronaldo had before turning 19.

Altidore described Panama as an organized team that moves the ball quickly and is good on the counterattack, so the US needs "to be conscious of that" and not give the ball away in "silly places". Because of that, teams are taking notice. In 2001, Arena's team lost twice in September: at home to Honduras and at Costa Rica.

That attack, despite having 12 goals in the Hex, is sputtering. It will be physical, and it'll step on the gas for the entire 90 minutes.

Just 11 minutes later, he assisted on a cheeky goal from Jozy Altidore.

As a whole, the team needs to be more forward thinking and not be content sitting back and waiting for opportunities.

The US team sitting fourth in the table with 9 points need to win this match at any cost if they want to grab an automatic berth to Russian Federation 2018.

After all those years of scrutiny, Altidore has developed a pretty thick skin, and it's served him well as the bumps on the road to Russian Federation threw everyone around the program into a tizzy.



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