Team USA had the opportunity against Panama to take over as the sole leader of its 2014 World Cup qualifying group, and they seized it in emphatic fashion, scoring a shutout 2-0 victory.
With the win, USMNT picked up three points and will head into their June 18 match with Honduras as the hottest team in the hexagonal group.
While Panama is by no means an elite team, the victory is still a great sign for the United States team. Considering group favorite Mexico once again played to a scoreless draw on the same night against Costa Rica, there's something to be said for coming up with a win even when favored.
There was plenty for American fans to like about their team's effort. Here were the key things we learned about Team USA from the big win.
Home-Field Advantage Is Huge (and Seattle Makes a Nice Home Field)
It should come as no surprise that the U.S. came away with the win at home. According to SportsCenter on Twitter, the Red, White and Blue haven't lost a home qualifier since 2002.
USA wins 2-0 over Panama in World Cup Qualifying, picks up 3 points. #USMNT has not lost a home qualifier since 2001 (22-0-2).— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 12, 2013
The Americans enjoyed the home-field advantage, and CenturyLink Field served as a great host for the National Team. According to those who were at the game, such as Richard Farley of ProSoccerTalk, the Seattle crowd was rocking throughout the game.
Press box shook a bit when Altidore scored.— Richard Farley (@richardfarley) June 12, 2013
It won't be of much help when the team travels down to Brazil for the World Cup in 2014, but it's clear that Team USA can rely on a true home-field advantage. With three more qualifiers set to go down on American soil, it's tough to envision them losing any of them.
Jozy Altidore Is For Real
If Team USA is going to compete on the international stage, a top-notch goal scorer who can be counted on is an absolute must. It appears that they have found that player in Jozy Altidore.
The 23-year-old has been huge for the American attack recently, and he continued his hot streak with the first goal of the game against Panama. According to ESPN's Paul Carr, his three-game goal streak is a first in his international career.
Jozy Altidore has scored in three straight U.S. games for the first time in his career.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 12, 2013
After going scoreless in seven appearances with the team in 2012, it appears that things are finally starting to click for Altidore. This wasn't the most masterful goal, but as Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl points out, he's the finisher for whom fans have been waiting.
HT USA 1:0 Panama. Jozy Altidore becoming the ruthless finisher US fans have wanted.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) June 12, 2013
This Team Is World Cup-Worthy
The win not only put Team USA on top of the hexagonal table; it practically guaranteed that the United States will be represented in the World Cup.
According to Carr, Team USA's chances to qualify are now 98.5 percent.
In isolation, this isn't the kind of win that will put the world on notice. Panama is 43rd in the world according to FIFA's World Ranking table, while the U.S. is 28th. But the USMNT can confidently say that it's the only team that has stood out in its group.
Three wins have been recorded during the qualifying process, along with another impressive win against World No. 2 Germany in a friendly. There's still plenty left to prove, but the team has in all likelihood punched its ticket to Brazil.
What it's capable of doing when it gets there is now the big question.