The US national team rode their luck repeatedly, but eventually gritted out a hard-earned 1-1 draw with Panama at Estadio Rommel Fernandez on Tuesday night.
Tim Howard had to make three saves and the back line wobbled repeatedly. But the visitors overcame tense circumstances, an uneven playing surface and constant Panamanian physicality to achieve the road point they’d originally targeted from this fixture.
Clint Dempsey opened the scoring shortly before halftime after some superlative work by Pulisic, who started the play by chasing after a long ball that Panamanian defender Felipe Baloy seemed to have under control. Pulisic picked the veteran’s pocket, then swiveled past him to forge deep into the Canaleros’ penalty box, then held off Roman Torres before centering to Dempsey for a simple close-range finish.
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The lead was short-lived, however. Four minutes later, former Philadelphia Union player Gabriel Gomez slammed home a loose ball after a long throw-in into the US box wreaked havoc on the Yanks’ defense.
Both sides had chances to win it in an open, albeit ragged second half, but neither could find the final touch.
- 39' – USA – Clint Dempsey
- 43' – PAN – Gabriel Gomez
- CREAKY IN THE ENGINE ROOM: Coach Bruce Arena opted for experience and bite in his central midfield by starting Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley. As USMNT fans have seen before, however, their combined performance didn't reflect their individual quality and neither were particularly sharp on the ball. It left the entire team in a reactive posture for much of the evening.
- CRUDE CANALEROS: With plenty of bruising challenges and sly digs, Panama made no secret of their intent to harass and intimidate their guests. Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe were particular targets, as the skillful wide men were fouled 2 and 4 times, respectively, and Mexican referee Cesar Arturo Ramos waved off a multitude of other non-calls. Pulisic got the last laugh by creating the Yanks' lone goal, however.
- BACK IN IT, BUT NOT OUT OF THE WOODS: When he took over from Jurgen Klinsmann late last year, Bruce Arena said four points would be needed from this month's two games in order for the USMNT to get their World Cup campaign back on track. That mission has been accomplished. But there's still no room for further stumbles, with tricky tests vs. Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico awaiting in June.
- PAN: Thursday, June 8 – at Costa Rica (TBA)
- USA: Thursday, June 8 – vs. Trinidad & Tobago (TBA)