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08 October 2017, 12:42 | Erma Lawrence
2:25 | Soccer A World Cup Without Messi
Arena brought in defender Michael Orozco and midfielders Benny Feilhaber and Juan Agudelo for Friday's game against Panama at Orlando, Florida, and the qualifying finale four days later at Trinidad. This year, the team snatched a 1-1 tie at Honduras after losing at home to the Ticos.
Yet with Panama, who are one point ahead of Arena's side in third place and eyeing an historic first ever appearance at the World Cup finals, riding a crest of a wave built on a defensive doggedness which has seen them concede just five goals in their last nine outings, that task will be far from straightforward.
"I don't know. Ideally we'd like to be qualified for the World Cup".
Mexico already clinched, while Costa Rica is on the verge. They reached a draw with Honduras the last time out, and lost to Costa Rica in the match prior.
How #USMNT's SPI chances to qualify for the World Cup will change based on Friday's result.
With the USA leading a joint bid with Mexico and Canada to host the 2026 World Cup - and overwhelming favourites to be named hosts by Federation Internationale de Football Association next year - missing out on Russia 2018 would be devastating for the growth of the game in North America. It had been 12 years since the Americans faced such stress in the final round and, regardless of Friday's outcome, their fate would be decided in the 10th and final match.
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. Australia's home leg is Tuesday in Sydney (4:55 a.m. ET, WatchESPN.com).
The Panamanians responded with good spells of possession after going down 2-0, and forced US goalkeeper Tim Howard into action for the first time on the night at the half-hour mark. It won't be necessary if the Americans sweep the two games in front of them.
"There really isn't much of a difference, which is part of why we have hard decisions to make", goalkeepers coach Matt Reis said.
Panama will likely try to make Friday's game a mud fight in an effort to hold on to third place. Their defenders have a reputation for hacking, and their attackers have a reputation for flopping.
With just two matchdays left in the CONCACAF qualifiers, Costa Rica and Panama can seal their place at the 2018 FIFA World CupRussia™ this Friday. "He did great to take his man on and I just tried to get into the box to get into a good spot".
"And the big players, they step up in big moments when we need them - obviously Christian, Jozy and Bobby [Wood] finishing it off". "And so we thought it was smart to get him off the field". Pulisic burst past the defense, dribbled around Panama goalie Jaime Penedo and slotted home the opener and the US was on its way.
Accustomed to qualifying for the World Cup with games to spare, the United States players realise another slip could cause them to miss next year's tournament, a circumstance that has swelled angst among a growing fan base. He has been a mainstay with the national team, but of late, had appeared in just one Premier League match since returning from injury. He scored Panama's goal in its home World Cup qualifier against the US this year. Should the game go the USMNT's way, it's business as usual for a program still righting itself after a disruptive start to the Hexagonal round of CONCACAFWorld Cup qualifying. (Hint: It won't be Pulisic.) Where does Clint Dempsey fit in all this? However, the possibility of that seems pretty minimal as well, firstly due to the fact that their final two matches are up against Mexico and U.S. and secondly, having a very low goal difference of -11.
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