The U.S. Men’s Soccer Team’s 6-0 blowout win over Honduras on Friday was more than supporters of the Stars and Stripes could have asked for, and for more reasons than just the scoreline.
Blossoming fan favorite Christian Pulisic further showcased his potential as the new face of U.S. soccer with a goal and two assists. Back-from-injury Clint Dempsey silenced his critics and doubters with an effortless hat trick. Moreover, Bruce Arena’s coaching wisdom was on display with a slightly modified formation that tore through the Honduran side with ease while not allowing a single goal on the defensive side.
Of course, the U.S. didn’t play a perfect game, and there were a couple of moments in the second half when Honduras looked like they might sneak a long strike past a happily bored Tim Howard.
It shouldn’t go unsaid, though, that the U.S. were missing four probable starters. DeAndre Yedlin, Fabian Johnson, and Bobby Wood were out of the lineup due to injury, and Jermaine Jones was absent as a result of yellow card accumulation. The resulting potential fix for the porous roster was a lineup that toyed with the possibility of pairing Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe in the midfield together – one that numerous American fans have been screaming and shouting in support of for some time now – and Bruce Arena did not disappoint.
So, even though the end-of-the-match figures displayed a surprisingly equal possession percentage and a 7-0 corner kick statistic in favor of Honduras, with all things considered the USMNT seem to now be successfully rebounding from their early 2018 World Cup qualification struggles.
Still, the U.S. will have to carry the momentum from their home soil victory into their match at Panama on Tuesday, March 28, as they hunt for another three points.
As it stands, the United States have bumped themselves up from sixth (last) place in the Hexagonal to fourth place with three points, but they will need to reach at least third place by the end of qualifying to make it to Russia. Funny enough, it’s Panama that currently stand in their way, sitting in that third place position with just one more point than the U.S.
Snagging three points in Panama City on Tuesday isn’t a must for the USMNT, but it would help secure their place among the top three in the Hexagonal while proving that their performance against Honduras was no fluke.
Historically, the U.S. have been rather good against Los Canaleros, even away from home. But the USMNT’s last qualifying match against Panama in 2013 was a dramatic one, when the U.S. escaped with a 3-2 win after slotting home two stoppage time goals.
It was a game that has since been recognized as the one that kept Mexico’s 2014 World Cup chances alive. Nonetheless, it showed the tenacity of a determined Panama side, one that has never once successfully qualified for a World Cup. It would be foolish to consider anything different from Los Canaleros this time around, and once again Bruce Arena will need to come with a guns-a’blazin’ lineup ready to secure the Americans’ spot in Russia.