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USA vs. Panama, 2022 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for

Can the USMNT finish it out?

Mexico v United States - Concacaf 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team head to Orlando tomorrow to play Panama in their penultimate match of the Octagonal World Cup qualifying round and their final one at home. With this match being a huge one for the USMNT, the first thing to do is to look at the standings to see where things are entering Matchday 13:

The USMNT, currently in 2nd place in the table, have a chance to clinch outright qualification to the 2022 World Cup. What needs to happen?

To clinch 4th place and the guarantee of finishing no worse than in the inter-confederation playoff spot, the scenario is much clearer: any result against Panama will do. The USMNT have 3 points in mind, though, and they want to close out their home slate of World Cup qualifying with a win before the sold out crowd at Exploria Stadium.

Latest Form

USA

D (0-0) - Mexico - World Cup Qualifying

W (3-0) - Honduras - World Cup Qualifying

L (0-2) - Canada - World Cup Qualifying

W (1-0) - El Salvador - World Cup Qualifying

W (1-0) - Bosnia & Herzegovina - Friendly

Panama

D (1-1) - Honduras - World Cup Qualifying

L (0-1) - Mexico - World Cup Qualifying

W (3-2) - Jamaica - World Cup Qualifying

L (1-0) - Costa Rica - World Cup Qualifying

D (1-1) - Peru - Friendly

What To Watch For

Get active on offense early. The USMNT need to start out getting into the box and getting scoring chances early against Panama. Don’t give Panama a chance to have hope of stealing points. Take their heart and soul out of the match early by putting pressure on their defense and getting on the scoreboard early.

Use the momentum. The crowd is going to be energetic, and they’ll most likely know the final score of the El Salvador-Costa Rica match by the time kickoff happens tomorrow night. The USMNT will then have a wave of momentum that they need to use to their advantage from the opening kick. Give the crowd any reason to go nuts, and that will carry the team throughout the match.

Finish the fight. Panama is not going to quit. The USMNT can see the finish line, and it’s not time to walk towards it. It’s time to run through the final tape. Playing mistake free and finishing the fight is crucial. Tomorrow night is a chance for the USMNT to qualify for the World Cup. Play like it.

Lineup Prediction

While USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said that this international window presented an opportunity to play several guys in all 3 matches, expect there to be some rotation in the starting lineup. With that in mind, here’s a prediction of what Berhalter’s starting XI will be:

Predicted Lineup vs. Panama

Zack Steffen remains the starter in goal, with the back line remaining the same after the clean sheet against Mexico: Antonee Robinson at left back, DeAndre Yedlin at right back, and Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson manning the centerback positions. There will likely be some rotation early in the second half if there is a lead to make sure fresh legs can withstand any pressure from Panama.

In the middle, Tyler Adams retains his role as the defensive midfielder, with Yunus Musah moving over to play the 8. Luca de la Torre gets the nod as the midfielder that pushes everyone forward and brings some creativity.

Up front, Christian Pulisic will once again occupy his familiar space on the left wing, with Gio Reyna getting the start on the right wing. Looking for some spark in the middle and on attack, Jesús Ferreira gets the start in the middle and we see an offense with a false 9.

Prediction

It’s a magical night in Orlando, with the USMNT winning 2-0. And for good measure, a draw by Costa Rica means the USMNT punch their ticket to the World Cup.