USA vs. Panama: Americans Mustn't Let Up As They Approach Final WC Qualifiers

Ethan Grant@DowntownEGAnalyst IJune 12, 2013

Jun 11, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; The USA starting 11 prior to the game against Panama at CenturyLink Field. USA defeated Panama 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

After watching Mexico suffer through another stunning draw at the Estadio Azteca on Tuesday night, the United States' men's soccer team took care of business against Panama, winning the match 2-0 in front of home fans at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. 

The Seattle Times had the post on Twitter as those in attendance watched Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson net goals for the home side in the victory:

Now that the Americans have a two-point lead on the rest of the competitors in the 2014 FIFA World Cup-qualifying CONCACAF hexagonal standings, it's time to increase pressure on the throats of the other five teams in the table. 

A World Cup berth is in sight, and this American side is playing its best soccer at the right time. 

The second legs against the five teams (Costa Rica, Mexico, Honduras, Panama and Jamaica) are right around the corner, and after going 3-1-1 against those teams to lead the table after five matches, USA needs to capture the necessary momentum going into Brazil and the 2014 World Cup. 

Here's a look at the current CONCACAF standings in USA's group. 

Pos Team GP W D L GF GA +/- Points
1 United States 5 3 1 1 6 3 3 10
2 Costa Rica 5 2 2 1 5 3 2 8
3 Mexico 6 1 5 0 3 2 1 8
4 Honduras 5 2 1 2 6 6 0 7
5 Panama 5 1 3 1 5 5 0 6
6 Jamaica 6 0 2 4 2 8 -6 2

*Standings via Fox Sports, as of 6/12/13


Everything seems to be clicking for the USA at the right time now. 

Since a 4-2 loss to Belgium in a May friendly, the United States has rallied for three straight wins over Germany, Panama and Jamaica to vault atop of the standings. 

As noted by this infographic from ESPN's Stats & Info, the USA squad currently has a 98.57 percent chance of making it to Brazil after the win—which also moved it up to No. 21 in the world standings. 

Other wins in the last year include a victory over Costa Rice, a draw and a win over Mexico in a qualifying and a friendly, respectively. The side's last loss came against Honduras in the opening match of the fourth round of qualifying. 

ESPN's SportsCenter  had this tweet about the home success of the Americans:

Although Jurgen Klinsmann has been anything but predictable with his lineups during his first set of matches with the United States side, he finally found one that looked worthy of consideration for the World Cup on Tuesday night. 

U.S. Soccer on Twitter had his lineup changes:

They worked to perfection in the first few minutes, with the awe and energy of the Seattle crowd feeding a group of players who look genuinely excited to be playing with each other in these qualifiers. 

The first goal (on a cross from Fabian Johnson, who was magnificent) by Altidore gave the U.S. some cushion in what was a must-win match after the events that transpired with the El Tri last night. It was Altidore's third straight contest with a goal. 

The second by Johnson put the match away just over eight minutes into the second half, and DeMarcus Beasley banged a potential third goal off the post in what would have given the Americans a commanding victory.  

As it is, no one is complaining. Especially not Mark Mravic, via Sports Illustrated:

From Jamaica match hero Brad Evans to midfielder Michael Bradley, the Americans are clicking on all cylinders right now. The only question seems to be in net, where a removal of Tim Howard will be the No. 1 storyline by the time the World Cup kicks off this time next year. It's a question that Sports Illustrated's Andy Glockner pondered earlier in the week. 

This is no time for the U.S. to let its foot off the accelerator. 

With the five matches of qualifying still looming large on the U.S. plate, there's all kinds of good news that abounds. Two of the three toughest opponents will be at home, a place that has been the friendliest confines of all since 2001 (see earlier tweet). 

With Panama and Jamaica scheduled to close out the CONCACAF qualifying in October, there's no reason why the Americans shouldn't find a way to crack the top three and earn a spot in the 2014 World Cup. 

Heck, there's no reason why they should be considered dangerous in every match—and that includes one against a talented but unfocused Mexican side that doesn't make many mistakes on defense (five draws so far) but can't seem to get out on the attack. 

By the time qualifying is over, we'll know a lot more about this American side. With a few more well-placed wins and an avenged loss over Honduras next Tuesday, there's no reason to think USA can't crack the top 15 by the time it gets to Brazil. 

Something is brewing on the current USA roster. Here's hoping they keep that brew firmly on the stove until the high-pitched shrill of the 2014 World Cup is officially in the books. 


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