Ten teams confirmed for World Cup; more to come Friday?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mexico is seeking to stay unbeaten and, perhaps, be a seeded team in Russian Federation. "They took advantage and they were superior and we were bad and they hit us hard". 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. The United States would then need to hope that Costa Rica and Mexico take down Honduras so it can have a shot at finishing fourth. I am putting the best center backs with the most talent on the ball back there for the USMNT and that means Omar Gonzalez and his brick feet are gone and off the pitch.

The United States Men's National Soccer Team (USMNT) may be 32 places higher than Panama in the Federation Internationale de Football Association world rankings, but that will count for nothing on Friday night. Fourth place enters an intercontinental playoff against either Australia or Syria. And all of the Draw fell on the last 4 duel rivals, including in the first round of selection 1: 1. Against Peru on Thursday, it was tough to single out any other Argentina player for praise on a night when there were scoring chances but no goals against a disciplined Peruvian defense.

The USMNT is 13-1-6 all-time vs. Panama, including 6-0-2 in World Cup qualifying matches. The three points earned allowed the U.S.to leapfrog Panama in the CONCACAF standings and leave Bruce Arena's side in prime position to punch its ticket to Russian Federation with Tuesday's match at Trinidad & Tobago. A draw would change nothing between the two.

Tension built after last month's 2-0 loss to Costa Rica in New Jersey and a 1-1 tie at Honduras. In their last two matches, they have scored three times in the first half an hour of the game. When the team has needed to make a statement in this World Cup cycle, the scoreline has done all the talking. "That's given us results".

Those first 90 will pose a challenge against a Panama team that's caused issues for the USA recently.

The U.S. started with an attack-minded lineup, starting Altidore and Wood up top with Pulisic right behind and midfielders Darlington Nagbe and Paul Arriola on the wings. Panama was out, and Mexico was the one that would face New Zealand.

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Panama had its only clear opportunity of the night early on but Gabriel Torres wasted a good counterattack by shooting high and wide of the frame from just outside the penalty area instead of playing Alberto Quintero in. Putting him through 90 minutes of tough competition twice a week is taxing on the veteran.

With a win, the USMNT would all but punch their ticket to Russian Federation next year - and playing against an inferior opponent on American soil in Orlando, the Americans should win. Even if they lose, if the USA-Panama match ends all square then qualification would be guaranteed regardless. Their opponents Trinidad & Tobago are already out of the running and will be looking to make a fresh start with a view towards Qatar 2022.

Provided Panama manage to register a win against the U.S. and Honduras lose against Costa Rica, then they are assured of making their World Cup debut in Russian Federation next summer. "But that's not the way it is", USA defender Matt Besler said.

According to ESPN, the United States currently has an 83% chance of qualifying right now. A win would put the USMNT on the cusp of qualification while a loss would put them in a somewhat precarious position. In the matches since, the US attack had grown a bit predictable and overly reliant on Pulisic, which made it easy for opposing defenses to neutralize the Americans. This Friday's game really is a toss-up and could be decided by a lucky bounce.

But a game was all the USA won Friday and much work remains to be done to assure the Americans safe passage to Russian Federation.



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