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2022 World Cup Qualifiers: USA 5-1 Panama - The USMNT get the job done with a big win at home

A huge game from Christian Pulisic bring the USA on the cusp of qualifying for the World Cup

Panama v United States: 2022 World Cup Qualifying Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

There was much said about the danger of playing a strong lineup in Mexico City and the risks that trying to win at soccer posed to the team in the lead up to this round of qualification. After all, a win at home against Panama, or at least three points in the window, would secure a 4th place finish at worst for the USA and send them to a World Cup playoff game in Qatar.

Gregg Berhalter showed that he wasn’t interested in this, presumably this is because, as we’ve learned, Gregg likes coffee.

Coffee is for closers. It seems as if rather than let fate or something else that non-closers rely on, Berhalter wanted his team to drink coffee. That strategy paid off with a point in Mexico, but it would be seen if the team would struggle against Panama because of his decision.

As expected the USA set up with changes forced by injury, strikers not scoring, and suspension. Notably, after being greeted by fans with open arms in a measured and stoic response now typical of them, Shaq Moore traveled to Orlando from Spain to take over at right back while Gio Reyna was kept on the bench after trying to win the game in Mexico all by himself.

Meanwhile, Panama set up in a 4-2-3-1 in a must win type of game for the Isthmus Boys. Panama has shown they can be pesky and a hard team to play against mostly because of their defensive organization. It would take a special effort from them to come away with a good result in Orlando.

In the end, the Americans jumped all over Panama. The Stars and Stripes scored early and often and went ahead 3-0 before the half. Two more goals came in the second half as Christian Pulisic registered a hat trick. Anibal Godoy did pull one back for Panama to make a slight dent in the American goal differential in the standings, but it was all together a dominant performance for the Americans.

GIFS OF GOALS, FINALLY THERE ARE GIFS OF GOALS

The USA started a little tentatively in the first half as Panama looked like they’d be able to hang with the team. That lasted about 8 minutes after a foul to Shaq Moore seemed to spark the USMNT into action. The team began pressing and added a physical element to the game that is typically needed in Concacaf matchups.

Their efforts were rewarded after just about 10 minutes when Walker Zimmerman was choke slammed in the box on a corner by Anibal Godoy. After the ref initially allowed the game to play on, a VAR check ruled there was a foul and Jesus Ferreira stepped up to take the shot... ONLY IT WAS A TRICK and after he got presumably insulted by a few Panama players, Christian Pulisic put the ball on the spot and slammed it home to make the game 1-0.

After some scary stuff where the ball bounced around in front of the USA goal and Panama looked to be eager to find an equalizer, the USA scored goal no. 2 thanks to a leaping effort by Paul Arriola.

The third goal came when Jesus Ferreira finished off a great team move as the Americans took a commanding 3-0 lead before the 30th minute.

Things calmed down a bit and the Americans didn’t score every five minutes and 15 seconds as they had for the first three goals, but even then Jesus Ferreira almost scored a bicycle kick.

As the half drew near its close five minutes was shown for injury time and it looked like Panama might escape with the score at just 3-0. Then Anibal Godoy struck again and perhaps lightly grazed Miles Robinson across his face giving the USA its second try from the spot of the night. Once again Ferreira held the ball with people said unpleasant things to him and Pulisic stepped up and bashed the shot home.

Down four goals with the half almost over, Panama decided to... start a fight? Concacaf gonna Concacaf, Pulisic had to be held back but cooler heads prevailed and the teams went to the half at 4-0 with all 22 players still on the field.

Half number two started with Yunus Musah and Arriola coming off for Kellyn Acosta and Gio Reyna. It took 52 seconds and Reyna almost scored.

Panama also seemed to make adjustments at the half as they came out looking to salvage something, even just a goal from the match. They nearly caught the backline with poor communication making Tyler Adams produce a heroic save.

That would be as close as the Panama got to making the score 4-1 because Luca de la Torre fought his way through the midfield and dished to Jedi who found Pulisic inside the 18. After some nice footwork to keep the ball, Pulisic completed his hat-trick making it 5-0.

At this point, Berhalter went to his bench again and brought Aaron Long in for Miles Robinson. After a call went against Reyna in midfield, Pulisic was shown a yellow for dissent and was shortly a part of the next line change for the USA as he came off for Jordan Morris and Gianluca Busio entered for Adams in the 70th.

For the remainder of the game the USA stayed a bit further back rather than trying to go for the touchdown. One more goal would come in though as Anibal Godoy redeemed one of the two penalties he gave up and scored a header at least in some part thanks to soccer’s version of defensive indifference.

Luckily, Panama would run out of time to complete the comeback and the USA took all three points and gained four goals in the goal differential count. The team has qualified for the play-in game against either New Zealand or the Solomon Islands, but can reach the World Cup outright by avoiding a defeat of 6 or more goals in Costa Rica. In the first two games the USMNT has shown they’re worthy of drinking coffee, one more match will solidify their status of closers and send them to their first World Cup since 2014.