The United States didn’t just win a must-win game in Orlando; they made a statement in the process. They played with confidence like we haven’t seen before and they showed that when their backs are against the wall they can come in the clutch. Panama was lost from the first minute as they either couldn’t execute their gameplan or their plan was complete trash. They let the U.S. move around freely especially Pulisic, and they didn’t sit back enough to absorb the pressure that we were giving them.
Christian Pulisic got the U.S. started in the 8th minute after a great play off of a Tim Howard goal kick. Flicked on from Bobby Wood to Altidore right into the path of Pulisic who brings the ball down, beats a defender and the goalkeeper before slotting it home from a tight angle.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that no American player, arguably ever, would be able to do what Pulisic did on that play. Being prepared for the ball before the pass from Altidore was even made, the touch from behind him with his off foot, the speed to push the ball beyond the backline and past the defender, the move around the goalkeeper, and the finish. It was all top class and it set the tempo for the rest of the match. Remember, he’s just 19 years-old.
Just 10 minutes later the young American set up a fantastic goal after beating a defender out wide, with rays of confidence, and whipped a perfect ball to find a wide-open Jozy Altidore just 5 yards in front of the goal. It’s Jozy’s first goal in the Hexagonal Qualifying round and went miles for his confidence.
The U.S. later went on to score two more goals, including a cheeky penalty from Altidore and a great finish from Bobby Wood. The front three of Pulisic (1 goal, 1 assist), Wood (Drew penalty, 1 goal), and Altidore (2 goals) may have given Bruce Arena an answer to the attacking problems we have faced recently. (Wood and Altidore up top with Pulisic underneath as CAM has been a suggestion of mine for a while now).
To wrap it up, the United States now needs to get 1 point from their away match in Trinidad to guarantee at least a playoff spot into the World Cup, and 3 points getting them automatically in.
After going 5-4-1, 0-1 in my last set of picks here is where I stand:
Let’s get into some picks for Monday and Tuesday.
Georgia @ Serbia (Over 3)
Rep. Ireland @ Wales (+116)
Italy (-189) @ Albania
Liechtenstein @ Macedonia (-2½)
Spain (-1½) @ Israel
Turkey (Pick -122) @ Finland
Croatia (Pick -135) @ Ukraine
Sweden @ Netherlands (-122)
Faroe Islands @ Hungary (-1½)
Switzerland (+1) @ Portugal
United States (-1½) @ Trinidad & Tobago (LET’S GO USA BABY)
Argentina (-1) @ Ecuador
Chile (+1) @ Brazil
Colombia (+½) @ Peru
Serbia (-833), Italy (-192), Macedonia (-1351), Spain (-417), Iceland (-1351) = (+140)
USA (-278), Hungary (-370), Argentina (-250), Uruguay (-909) = (+160)
15 teams have now qualified for the World Cup, with 17 more spots to be finalized. These games today and tomorrow are the final qualifying matches of the year other than the playoffs and there are a lot of do or die matches for many teams around the world. Should create some awesome scenarios as all matches start and finish at the same time, providing drama and most likely controversy. I will be back to recap all the matches and hopefully celebrating the United States going to their 7th straight World Cup!
Stay kickin’ it. Peace.