USMNT Answers Critics: Christian Pulisic Bounces Back And What Else We Learned

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Photo Credit: John A. Babiak @Photog_JohnB

Editorial (October 8, 2017) – The United States Men’s National Team got a huge win on Friday night. They defeated Panama 4-0 at Orlando City Stadium in Florida. Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore led the way, with three goals and two assists combined.

USMNT Answers Critics: Christian Pulisic Bounces Back And What Else We Learned

This was a wide open game, and it suited the Americans well. They used the counter to pick apart the Panamanian defense. Once they got the second goal they were rolling. Meanwhile, Panama never really got settled. Here’s what I noticed:

Christian Pulisic Can Respond To Pressure:

Media and fans went after this team after they lost at home to Costa Rica then barely got a draw at Honduras. The veterans on this team are used to this heat. Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey have stepped up with their backs against the wall. Jozy Altidore has responded to criticism with clutch performances in the past.

But Christian Wonderboy Pulisic has mostly been on a high since joining the senior team. It’s easy to play well when everything goes your way. It’s harder to respond when everything’s on the line and you’re getting criticized left and right.

The 19-year-old stood tall in this game. He was lethal on the counter from start to finish. His opening goal was critical to getting the team going. He made a great pass to Altidore on the second goal. Pulisic touched the ball on almost every good attacking sequence in the 57 minutes he played. The kid played his game and it worked to a charm.

More than that, Pulisic withstood a CONCACAF onslaught. The Panamanians committed late tackles and clips all night long. Pulisic was their primary target, yet he only recorded three fouls sustained. He took enough punishment to try and help his team. The ESPN2 broadcast heavily criticized the officials for not cracking down on that. USMNT Head Coach Bruce Arena recognized the risk and subbed the No. 10 off with the score 3-0.

Panama Did Not Show Up:

This was described as the biggest moment in Panama sports history. It ended up being a dud. The team walked off the field with a bunch of questions as to what happened.

Let’s start with the opening 15 minutes. The first half was wide open. One would expect Panama to come in, sit behind the ball, and counter. They didn’t slow the game down at all off the ball. They tried to play the Yanks straight up and got numbers forward. That exposed them in transition and they got burned. It got so bad that Head Coach Hernán Darío Gómez made a tactical sub 34 minutes in. By the time the team started to adjust at all (and those were minimal), it was too late.

They did a good job in the first 20 minutes making Michael Bradley uncomfortable, but the U.S. adjusted quickly. Gabriel Torres and Blas Pérez didn’t do enough up top. The defense was completely unprepared to handle Pulisic in a flat 4-4-2.

This was a failure by the coach in preparing the game plan. It was a failure by the players in execution. Things got strange after the match, as Gómez got into it with a reporter after the result. Panama has to be shaken. We’ll see if they’re able to regroup quickly to try and get a result at home against Costa Rica.

Role Players Stepping Up:

Pulisic and Altidore will get the headlines, but Paul Arriola and DeAndre Yedlin were excellent as well. This was Yedlin’s first meaningful game with the national team in awhile. He’s now getting back into things with Newcastle as well.

Yedlin worked the flank on Friday very well, especially on the defensive end. He made several excellent plays on Blas Perez in one defensive sequence. Fans and media won’t remember or talk about it, but he might have saved a goal.

Arriola quietly had a good night offensively as well. He was involved in several build ups in the first half and was a good outlet for Pulisic when he was under pressure. In the second half, he connected the midfield to Wood and took over the chance creation. Everyone will remember the finish by Wood on the fourth goal, but Arriola’s run to attract pressure, and no look pass was the best play I’ve seen him make at the international level.

Last Words:

Dax McCarty checked into the game for Pulisic in the 57th minute. It was 3-0 at that point and Pulisic had take enough punishment.

Fans were happy that Pulisic could get a half hour off, but Bruce Arena made a classy move here. McCarty is a Winter Park, FL native which is just outside Florida. It was a nice move by Arena to get the home town kid a few minutes in the match even though he wasn’t in the Starting XI.

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