The US national team enter Friday's match against Panama (7 pm ET; ESPN2, Univision, UDN) in a precarious position.
Anything but a win in Orlando could see the USA miss out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986. When head coach Bruce Arena addresses his team prior to the match, his message will be simple.
"Win the game."
The 66-year-old explains that this is what he will tell his team in a video released by U.S. Soccer. The US national team currently sit in fourth place in the Hexagonal with nine points, behind Panama who are currently on 10 points. The top three finishers in the Hexagonal will qualify directly to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, while the fourth-place finisher will play either Syria or Australia in a two-legged playoff next month.
Panama are 1W-2L-1D on the road so far in the Hex, having beaten Honduras 1-0 on the first matchday and earned a 0-0 draw in Costa Rica. Meanwhile, the US have lost two home qualifiers in a cycle for the first time since 1957.
Despite the pressure-packed situation the USA find themselves in, Arena made it clear that he would have signed up for this scenario when he took over late last year.
“When I took the job last November, if you said to me you’d be in position in game nine to play a game at home that you had to win, I would say yes," he said. "So I think in 2017 we’ve had one blip in the Costa Rica game. All of the other results went along as we expected and maybe even an extra point in Mexico. If it comes down to where we need four or six points in our last two games I think that’s fine and we’ll get it done.”