The last time we checked in on the United States Men’s National Team and their quest to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, they were going into a massive set of September qualifiers against Costa Rica (in New Jersey) and Honduras (in Honduras). The hope was they could beat a really good Costa Rica side in the United States and get a win over an overmatched Honduras squad, even if winning abroad in CONCACAF qualifying is really hard.
Instead, the Americans lost to Costa Rica and needed a goal in the 85th minute to draw Honduras. It was not ideal. While the United States didn’t necessarily need to walk out of these with anything more than a point for qualifying purposes, the fact that the squad couldn’t get anything against Costa Rica — a very good team with the best keeper in the region by a mile — and needed something late to get a result against Honduras wasn’t encouraging for a squad with the lofty expectations that the Americans have.
This was especially the case because the United States had two matches left. The good news was it was about as favorable of a slate as the squad could get, taking on a fine but by no means great Panama squad in Orlando before traveling to Trinidad and Tobago to play the worst team they’ll face in qualifying.
On Friday, the United States put forth a convincing performance to beat Panama, 4-0. Christian Pulisic — the American wunderkind who turned 19 last month — obliterated the Panamanians, scoring in the eighth minute after embarrassing essentially their entire defense and setting up a Jozy Altidore strike 11 minutes later. He’s very good.