For the USMNT, Road to Russian Federation is Closing

2:25 | Soccer         A World Cup Without Messi

The Americans were undefeated at home in the last three World Cup qualifying cycles in the Hex, but dropped two this time around. Honduras also have nine points going into their match at Costa Rica on Friday, but the Americans have a superior goal difference of plus-one compared to the Ticos' minus-seven. Instead of running full speed, all of Panama's defenders have gone flat-footed.

'I think we have to be all more aggressive, ' forward Jozy Altidore said. How impressive was the understanding between Pulisic and Altidore-who scored twice and showed remarkable poise on his Panenka penalty?

Altidore earned Man of the Match honors on a night where everyone in the attack played well.

The US has an attacking edge as Borussia Dortmund's Christian Pulisic and Hamburg's Bobby Wood will be bringing their Bundesliga experience. And Fabian Johnson or not, they have no excuse not to do so. Darlington Nagbe was his usual confident self on the ball working the left wing, and while he had the quietest night among the USA attackers, he still provided a calming presences when needed.

The 19-year-old has played in important games in front of 80,000 fans for his club, Borussia Dortmund, against opponents like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, but Friday was a defining moment for Pulisic in a US jersey. "It was a really good team performance". First runner-up in that race will have to face a third place team from the Asian region, either Australia or Syria. Arena said his squad was aware of what was stake if the U.S. fails to deliver the goods in Orlando tomorrow: "I have not had to lecture the players in any way as to just how significant this game is".

For the U.S. not to participate at the World Cup for the first time since 1986 would be a hammer-blow for North America and its soccer infrastructure which has grown immeasurably over the past decade.

El Tri won only two of their 10 hex games in 2014 World Cup qualifying and yet at the WC, they got a draw against Brazil, the World Cup host, and made it to the second round.

"We faced a team that was immensely better than us.

Our movement was good today", Pulisic said.

In this article, I'll focus on CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) qualifying and, subsequently, the U.S. Men's National Team.

In the weeks, days and hours leading to a USA men's national soccer team match, speculation and intrigue about Bruce Arena's lineup swells among supporters and pundits alike.

The U.S. has scored just 12 goals in eight matches in the hexagonal, half in a home rout over Honduras in Arena's first qualifier after he replaced Jurgen Klinsmann.

Playing his first worldwide match since he turned 19 last month, Pulisic was moved to central midfield from the flanks and sparked the attack from the opening whistle with pace and ball control seldom seen from an American.

Apparently this game is a big deal.

On the other hand, Honduras need all three points to keep their qualification hopes alive, which all but guarantees a thrilling encounter. "He did what he wanted". He's the best player on the team not only because of what he does as an individual, but because he makes his teammates better.

There was one early warning sign from Panama via Gabriel Torres but the Americans were in control and eventually broke the deadlock with less than 10 minutes played.

While the USA was impressive going forward, it was suspect in the back.

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