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US National Team cruises by Panama in World Cup qualifying

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Arena at the 2006 World Cup

Christian Pulisic, rear, opened the scoring in the eighth minute and Jozy Alitidore added two goals for the U.S.in a 4-0 win over Panama on Friday night.

The U.S.is in fourth place out of six teams competing in the final round of CONCACAF qualifiers. A playoff against either team would include wearying travel, especially for American players based in Europe who would return home for the first leg, travel to Malaysia or Australia for the second, then return to Europe for matches with their clubs.

With two wins and two losses on American soil, the USMNT has shown that its home matches aren't the "easy wins" they've been in recent years. Seeing that this would be his life for the final 30 minutes of the match, Bruce Arena made the wise move to sub out Pulisic, get him out of harm's way and save whatever's left in his tank for the crucial showdown Tuesday with Trinidad and Tobago.

"I'm very fortunate that tonight I had another opportunity to play in a big match where we needed a good result and was able to step up". And I believe we're prepared to do that. "We want to come out flying". It will be challenging. "They've had a good qualifying campaign to date.They're a team in third place - so they're ahead of us. Trinidad are out but will be a handful". They did just that in an emphatic 4-0 win that has the Americans on the verge of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

And with Panama arriving in Orlando a point ahead of the USA and eyeing an historic trip to the finals, the tension was palpable.

Arena needed his side to heap early pressure onto a Panama side who have been notoriously hard to break down, conceding just five goals in their prior matches of the six-nation final round of qualifying. It was Altidore's early lay-off passes that created chances for Pulisic, including his expertly taken eighth-minute goal.

Fouls on Pulisic prompted Arena to criticise Mexican referee Cesar Ramos and he said: 'I think Panama thought there was a bull's-eye on his back'.

His wastefulness was to prove key as Pulisic produced some brilliance to settle United States nerves.

With the ease of a butterfly and the tenacity of a wasp, Pulisic ran onto a Jozy Altidore flick-on, floated through the Panama defense, rounded goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and finished into the empty net.

Needing to take initiative, Arena started three attacking midfielders: Portland's Darlington Nagbe and D.C. United's Paul Arriola flanked Pulisic, a rising star with Borussia Dortmund.

Pulisic, 19, pulled off the maneuver in the seventh minute at Orlando City Stadium.

On the ensuing goal kick, the US also went Route 1, with Wood heading along Tim Howard's long ball and Altidore kicking it on to Pulisic, who did the rest. The coaching staff from Sunday since the guys landed was showing video, pulling guys aside, making sure we were prepared for this game ... Wood was tripped in the area by substitute Armando Cooper and Altidore stepped up and cheekily chipped the ball down the middle. The setting up of the Altidore goal brought Pulisic's tally during the tournament to four goals and four assists, out of fourteen goals scored up to that point by the USA team.

Altidore earned Man of the Match honors on a night where everyone in the attack played well.

That opened the door for Pulisic's victor a minute later, and the Americans just rolled from there.

"There's no backstabbing. Never has there been a moment where there's been any animosity or bad blood", Reis said.

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