Make no doubt about it, the United States Men’s National Team's World Cup qualifier versus Panama tomorrow is a very big game.
The U.S currently sit fourth in their group with nine points. That is one point behind Panama and nine points behind first-place Mexico. In their current position, the U.S will be put into a playoff game for a spot in the World Cup. However, with a win against Panama, they will be one step closer to an automatic berth. The biggest thing to watch for in this game is the rebound this team makes. After the last two qualifiers, which saw the U.S lose to Costa Rica and tie Honduras, we need to see the U.S bounce back and show some fight. The critics were on them after those two disappointing games, so look for the U.S. to try to prove those critics wrong versus Panama. Most notably, Ex-USMNT player and Fox Sports commentator Alexi Lalas, watch his rant below.
There needs to be a certain urgency and fight seen tomorrow against Panama, without it, a win could be in doubt.
With that being said, could head coach Bruce Arena change things up in order to install a team with fight and pride. When speaking at a media scrum, Arena hinted at a possible lineup change.
"It's always there," Arena said when asked about a 3-5-2 defensive lineup. “You learn to play it in different styles and certainly if we're chasing the game and we want to throw another player into the attack, it's always an option."
He went on to say:
"It depends on who's on the field, it depends on the situation. It depends on if three actually mean five, or does three mean three? Are we starting that way, or are we going to it at the end of a game if we need to push things?"
Definitely, keep your eye on the squad Arena starts and the moves he makes during the game. The U.S. might go with a different look versus Panama.
Lastly, what really needs to happen is players need to step up. There are a few players on this team who can take the game by the neck and run with it. Those players need to perform for the U.S. In this most crucial time for the USMNT, these players need to shine and be a beacon of hope. There needs to be leadership, someone needs to step up and guide this team.
The USMNT players and Arena have been adamant they will qualify for Russia 2018, but nothing is set in stone. They can take a big leap towards that goal with a win versus Panama. Right now, the team is in a funk and this game is the opportunity to break out of it. Show some accountability, leave everything on the field and lastly, show some fight. Eventually, the U.S.’ class will show in these games, but it is about being in that position first. Let’s hope for a much better performance and a win. With a win, the USMNT will control their destiny for an automatic World Cup berth.