USMNT bounce back in World Cup qualifiers

"He was good. He was resilient for a little fella".

Dempsey, who scored a hat-trick on his return to worldwide football against Honduras last week, tucked away a 39th-minute goal after a superb run by Borussia Dortmund's Pulisic. It saw the USA men's national soccer team jump up to fourth in the qualification table, and move their goal difference back into the positive.

"I think Panama thought there was a bull's-eye on his back, and they went after him from minute 1 and all the way through", Arena said. The referee tonight wasn't going to call too many fouls.

"But a good lesson for him". It is something you can't tell him about, he has got to experience it. "You've got to really stay focused and physical out there". "Sometimes it's not always about soccer in these games. It's all about finding that balance". There were times when I didn't have it (against Panama). The USMNT back line will look completely different when, if, Arena has all his options available. After starting camp in last place in the six-team Final Round qualifying group, depending on other results Tuesday, a win could see the MNT climb as high as second by the end of the night. Let's hope for fewer injury concerns come June.

"Six points would have been great, but four points is a must", said goalkeeper Tim Howard.

Tuesday's game was typical conservative ArenaBall, projecting a workman-like if largely uninspired performance against an attacking team seeking to capitalize on its home field advantage and urged on by a ferocious crowd. Not coincidentally, the US defense had its issues at times without him (and John Brooks, who left camp with a sickness). Bruce Arena made his first obvious mistake as United States manager and put them together against Panama, and it didn't work. "We took him out around 55 minutes against Honduras and he wasn't able to recover enough to play in this game".

The Americans began their time together with a new coach and without any points in the CONCACAF standings.

The second half was a lot more of the same, with the United States struggling against Panama's physicality, and with the Bradley-Jones midfield duo becoming more and more absent throughout the match, to the point of being an active liability to the team at times. Arena's subs in the second half helped to calm some of those problems, most notably bringing in Bedoya to add more of a defensive presence in midfield. Just four minutes later and after multiple scares for the USA defense, Panama scored off a long throw from Adolfo Machado.

It's also important to remember just how many obstacles the U.S had to overcome in getting those four points. "The answer is yes", said U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati. After that, break down the USMNT's 6-0 destruction of Honduras. Again, it's another set of excuses we won't make, but the mounting injuries caused many selection issues and still, a point was earned. "So that's a big deal".

Arena said from the start that these qualifiers were not a time for experimentation. So far, it seems to be happening. The US attackers were too worn down from the long, physical match to do a whole lot with the better possession behind them, but even once Paul Arriola entered in for a run-down Jozy Altidore, they just didn't have the legs to find a victor.

Mexico rode their luck against Trinidad, who felt aggrieved after a slick first half effort by Joevin Jones was disallowed for offside, though replays appeared to show he had timed his run to perfection.

  • Julie Sanders