The US may not qualify directly for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but there is a foot in the door.
n emphatic remarks were made by the US men’s national team in Orlando, stomping Panama 5-1 to almost seal a place at the World Cup. With that result, the US officially earned no worse than a top-four finish at the CONCACAF Octagonal, but even that underestimates the reality of the situation.
With a four-goal margin of victory achieved in Orlando, the US must now lose by six or more goals against Costa Rica on Wednesday to be eliminated from the automatic qualifying position.
Christian Pulisic took the lead, wore the captain’s armband and scored a hat-trick in the big win. Paul Arriola scored and played well in 45 minutes, while Gio Reyna was superb after coming on in the second half. Jesus Ferreira got a goal as well to give the FC Dallas men a boost among the bustling striker lineup.
17th minute — USA — Christian Pulisic (pen)
23rd minute — USA — Paul Arriola (A. Robinson)
27th minute — USA — Jesus Ferreira
45th minute — USA — Christian Pulisic (pen)
65th minute — USA — Christian Pulisic (A. Robinson)
85th minute — PAN — Anibal Godoy
Final: USA 5, Panama 1
A declaration of victory on a critical night in front of a brilliant crowd, the USA put one foot in the 2022 World Cup.
Although it was unofficial thanks to Costa Rica’s win earlier in the day, the US had to lose by six goals in Costa Rica to overcome it. Costa Rica has become the Home of Horror for the US, but that is not a realistic outcome.
What’s official is the US snatched at least the top four spots, so the absolute worst-case scenario is a place in the intercontinental playoffs.
90+2 Minutes: Panama battling a tired US team trying to hold on for the extra 3 minutes. Shaq Moore came down after the clear and grabbed his right foot. Could cramp, could be more. He wakes up without treatment. He is the only right-back the US currently has.
85th minute: GOAL, Panama! There was a clean sheet, and it was basically a goal for Costa Rica too. Aaron Long, struggling hard to hold off Panama’s counter-attack, was shown a yellow card. Given how physical Panama was during the game, the Orlando crowd was understandably raining down on the referee.
It proved the decisive call as the delivery of a superb free-kick found Anibal Godoy’s head buried it. A reality for the US on a perfect night.
82nd minute: CHANCE, USA! Gianluca Busio started to dominate the midfield and he found Reyna coming in from the left. Reyna, with few options to create many chances for her team-mates, positioned herself at the top of the box and fired a ferocious shot just over the bar. US. still looking for more.
76th minute: Attendance announced as a hair over 25,000. Exploria Stadium celebrates by doing a wave. Come on guys!
70th minute: One of the funniest moments of the entire World Cup qualifying cycle, when Gio Reyna gets hacked and Pulisic is fed up with Panama fouls. He was supervising the referee, and he got a yellow card for dissent. The referee held a yellow card in Pulisic’s face for 15 minutes.
Pulisic immediately pulled by Berhalter, replaced by Jordan Morris. Gianluca Busio comes on for Tyler Adams.
65th minute: GOAL! UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! Captain America has a hat-trick! Antonee Robinson with more Jedi movement to provide Pulisic’s excellent cross, and the Chelsea striker collected with a subtle touch. With his back to goal, he turned and shot from close range, there was nothing Mejia could do. 5-0 USA.
Feel it, fans. The United States is only in the 2022 World Cup.
64th minute: Miles Robinson is substituted for Aaron Long, and the Atlanta United defender gets a standing ovation from the Orlando crowd, who have been loud and energetic throughout the game. Panama also swapped Adalberto Carrasquilla for Cristian Martinez.
61st minute: CHANCE, USA! Striker problems continued for AS as Ferreira missed another good chance. Reyna crossed with a brilliant cut to de la Torre to break through Panama’s backline, and his horizontal cross to Ferreira just in front of the door. Ferreira hacked it over the bar. Another bad miss from the US striker.
Gio Reyna, however, was absolutely brilliant off the bench for the second game in a row.