Pulisic stars as US boosts World Cup hopes

Sunday, 08 Oct, 2017

Christian Pulisic ran riot in Orlando to fire the United States to within touching distance of Russian Federation 2018 with a 4-0 win over Panama.

What stood out the most for the USA was the renewed brilliance of Pulisic, the 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund star who's already the U.S.'s best player, and his often telepathic understanding with Altidore in both directions.

Jozy Altidore scored and assisted for the U.S.in a 4-0 rout of Panama in Friday's World Cup Qualifier at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Fla.

After an 0-2 start in qualifying, the US climbed back into contention before last month's 2-0 home loss to Costa Rica in Harrison, New Jersey. In many ways the 19-year-old Pulisic is Altidore's most natural partner on the roster, certainly the closest thing the US has to his club running mate Giovinco.

"On the night, we actually didn't finish well", he said. A bit of cheeky footwork played him around the defender and put him in great position for a cross. Right now soccer is growing at a rapid pace and the World Cup will be a great opportunity to speed up the growth even more.

The Borussia Dortmund playmaker danced through a host of challenges following a through ball from Jozy Altidore before rounding goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and slotting the ball into the net.

"Our movement was good today", Pulisic said. A loss or draw would leave the team's fate dependent on other results. It shows a lot about his qualities as a player, and what he's doing is fantastic.

Bradley said the goal is "to make sure that from the beginning we play in a way where the bar tilts in our favor, where we're mobile and aggressive".

The Panamanians responded with good spells of possession after going down 2-0, and forced US goalkeeper Tim Howard into action for the first time on the night at the half-hour mark.

At its deadliest on the night when hitting on the counter, the USA made it 3-0 in 42nd minute via a penalty kick after early Panama substitute Armando Cooper clumsily brought down Wood in the box.

They did not have to pay for their sins and, before intermission, Altidore added the third goal on a 43rd-minute penalty kick.

Over the course of Arena's second coaching reign, the guesswork has spread to goalkeeper, a position that, historically here and overseas, has a definitive hierarchy and stokes little conjecture.

Bradley became the first American manager in England's Premier League and has been hired to lead Los Angeles' Major League Soccer expansion team that will start to play competitively next year.

And it was the former Sunderland striker who went close early on when his close range shot was charged down before Wood shot inches wide soon after.

Panama hasn't forgotten about that night. After taking a handful of heavy knocks in the first 10 minutes of the second half, Bruce Arena took the youngster out for defensive midfielder Dax McCarty in the 56th minute to protect Pulisic from taking any more of a beating than he had to.

"It was a good win for our team", manager Arena said afterwards. Three points or less won't be enough to overtake the U.S., given the USA's huge edge in goal difference. And I believe we're prepared to do that. Panama had allowed five goals in eight previous World Cup qualifiers before shipping four against the USA and now will simply hope to hold on to the fourth spot, which will play either Australia or Syria in an intercontinental playoff to go to Russian Federation.