The road through CONCACAF World Cup qualifying follows a fairly simple recipe: win at home, draw on the road, survive.
The United States got back on track to this formula with a 1-1 draw in Panama tonight in a match featured not a lot of soccer and a somehow only 24 combined fouls.
The first forty minutes were largely forgettable for both sides, but the final five minutes before the half woke the game up quickly. In the 39th minute, Christian Pulisic found himself in the box and after he picked the pocket of Panama defender Anibal Baloy, Pulisic found Clint Dempsey all alone at the top of the six to slot home past Jaime Penedo.
It was a fantastic bit a calmness and skill from Pulisic and standard stuff from Dempsey as the US took the lead. The goal was the 56th in Dempsey’s international career, now just one away from Landon Donovan’s national team record.
However, the lead would be short lived, as a long throw into the US penalty area was headed straight down. Gabriel Gomez of Panama reacted first, and slotted home the lose ball past Tim Howard to even the game in the 43rd minute.
The US would struggle to deal with set pieces and long throws all night, but thankfully Panama failed to capitalize. A few timely interventions by Howard as well as a ten off-target shots from Panama helped the USMNT survive down the stretch.
There were a few bright moments in attack for the US in the second half, the best perhaps a Darlington Nagbe-Jorge Villafana combination down the left flank. Villafana’s cross found Pulisic in the box however his volleyed shot was blocked before it reached goal.
The draw featured no cards of any kind and despite the US being outshot 19-7 overall, Panama only held a 4-3 edge for shots on target. The solitary point gives the USA their fourth point of the weekend and the current qualifying campaign, currently good for 4th place ahead of Honduras on goal difference.
The USMNT will play against Trinidad and Tobago at home on June 8th followed by a quick turnaround to Estadio Azteca and Mexico on June 11th. The US-Mexico game was moved up two days to allow El Tri to play at the Confederations Cup in Russia, which begins on June 18th for Mexico.