Published: Sat, October 07, 2017
Culture | By Antonia Gonzales

Bruce Arena sounds rally cry ahead of USA's crucial qualifiers

Pulisic has scored or created nine of the 12 US goals during the final round of World Cup qualifying so clearly is the American player to watch against Panama, the nation lying directly ahead of the fourth-place Americans in the Hexagonal. "I don't think I need to lecture our players on the significance of the game". There are two games remaining for each side; the United States go to Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday after the Panama match, Los Canaleros host Costa Rica the same night, and Honduras have to deal with a road match in Costa Rica followed by a home game against Mexico. The top three finishers will earn automatic berths to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russian Federation, while the fourth-place finisher will advance to a playoff against either Australia or Syria to try to earn a spot in the World Cup.

Altidore described Panama as an organized team that moves the ball quickly and is good on the counterattack, so the USA needs "to be conscious of that" and not give the ball away in "silly places". The result was a mirror image of the first World Cup qualifying match between the two sides in March, even if the starting XI in the Gold Cup contest had been heavily rotated. The U.S. clinched with one game to spare in 1997, 2001 and 2009, with two left in 2013 and with three remaining in 2005. If they win, they'll still need to do the business against Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday, but that should be an easier test.

Gulati, who teaches economics at Columbia University, has held the unpaid presidency of the U.S. Soccer Federation since 2006. T&T are rooted firmly at the bottom of the table.

"It's my first qualifying cycle, but we know that four years ago we suffered that loss".

After such a heart-breaking end to their last World Cup qualifying campaign, Panama will certainly be motivated to get the win in Orlando.

The USMNT have an 11-1-6 (W-L-D) all-time record against Panama heading into Friday's match, which reflects their superior quality.

Away games in the Hex are always a grind, played in some rather trying climates in front of passionate fans.

Defensive stability has been the main issue for the Americans so far.

This time, it is the US struggling to remain in contention.

Pick any combination of Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream and Matt Besler to start in the middle of the line.

The ongoing search for a full time left back also hinders the Americans. That tragic outcome stung badly - those involved later confessed that the pain lingered for months for both them and their families, and some even contemplated retirement - but it's not clouding their approach to Friday's clash. The U.S. may have one of the brightest young talents in the world in Christian Pulisic.

Now age 19, Pulisic has plenty of time to reach more milestones as he appears to be visibly improving for both club and country game by game. Because of that, teams are taking notice. Bruce Arena's side was beaten at home by Costa Rica, then scraped an ugly draw away to Honduras.

That attack, despite having 12 goals in the Hex, is sputtering. The USA must get back past Panama first. Putting him through 90 minutes of tough competition twice a week is taxing on the veteran. The USA had dropped three games in a row to fall into fourth place.

As a whole, the team needs to be more forward thinking and not be content sitting back and waiting for opportunities. "You look at some of the experiences they had as a group, some of the success they've had, some of the moments where they've come close but not quite gotten where they wanted to".

Panama are once again edging close to qualification, this time for Russian Federation 2018.

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