Christian Pulisic's skills were just pure butter on this wild USMNT assist

The result not only served as a shot in the arm for the team after two disappointing losses to regional rivals Mexico and Costa Rica last November, but pushed the USA up to fourth place in the Final Round of FIFA World Cup Qualifying. In Pulisic, they seem to have found another creative spark that can propel the team forward into the World Cup.

Gulati and everyone else associated with the program would prefer the balance of the campaign (six matches apiece) proceeds with less stress, not more.

"We have to appeal this decision, we'll see how it goes", said Jorge Miadosqui, Argentina's national teams director.

They have jumped from sixth to sit in forth place in the six-team World Cup 2018 qualifying table.

In the other qualifiers Tuesday, visiting Costa Rica tied Honduras, 1-1, and Mexico beat Trinidad & Tobago, 1-0, on the road on Diego Reyes' second-half header.

Now, at least, the USA squad is on firmer ground.

While the U.S. are buoyant after their destruction of Honduras, Arena believes the scrap for World Cup places will go right down to the wire. Mexico has a jump on everyone. They're making headway in their 2018 CONCACAF World Cup Hexagonal, pushing past Trinidad & Tobago and La H thanks to their high scoring ways.

Dempsey's 56th global goal moved him to within one of Landon Donovan's all-time record for United States of America, opening the scoring after again combining with Christian Pulisic.

Pulisic, the 18-year-old wonder, exacted revenge for Panama's fierce challenges and hard fouls. He has to learn that the referee is not going to protect him.

It is a common tactic in soccer, and especially in the CONCACAF region, to try to slow down a talented player with some physical rough stuff that might also have the side effect of getting him angry. "I don't see it as a revenge match", said the holding midfielder.

Pulisic became increasingly frustrated with the treatment Tuesday. He stopped, stepped on the ball with his right foot as defender Roman Torres spun, played the ball from his right foot to his left and cut it back to Dempsey. But after a 6-0 win, the side is feeling good coming into their clash with Panama.

Still, while the USA did not dominate, they did not wilt, either, away to tougher opponents than they faced last week in California. "You've got to really stay focused and keep the same intensity". It's all about finding that balance. They just come steaming through you. No one was aggressive in the air, and no one came in behind to clean up a bounce. "It's insane, but it's effective on certain nights when the referee is not on your side". "He was resilient. For a little fella, he mixes it up". It was the kind of move made only by a player who bloods himself against the best in the world, which Pulisic does every day at Borussia Dortmund.

And while Graham Zusi probably won't start many more games at right back, Arena said he was glad that he experimented with Zusi at that position in January just in case he'd be needed to play there on occasions like Tuesday night. It's all part of the learning curve. "Next time round will be better for him".

Meantime, Arena tossed together a backline that had never played as a unit. Without John Brooks, whatever Arena wants to do with Geoff Cameron will shape his backline.

The throw in confused the USA defenders lined up in the box.

The third-place team had 15 points four years ago, 16 in 2009 and 2005, 17 in 2001 and 14 in 1997.

Los Canaleros leveled the match just four minutes after Dempsey struck when Gabriel Gomez hammered home from close range after a long throw-in in the box. Gabriel Gomez pounced on a loose ball for a powerful finish from short distance. The team headed into this series of matches with zero points from their first two games.

In all, though, Arena was pleased with contributions from a number of reserves filling in for injured players.

Case in point: Two of the substitutes he used Tuesday, Kellyn Acosta and Paul Arriola, are on the upside of their young careers. "I was in front of goal, I think I cut it and just saw Clint making a ideal run", said Pulisic, while admitting some frustrations at giving up the equalizer just moments later.

In truth, the US men's national should qualify, but the games against Panama, in particular, will be pivotal in deciding whether the red, white and blues will be booking their tickets for Russian Federation directly this October, or waiting to face a nerve-wracking play-off against Asian opponents.

Russian Federation vs Belgium is on Fox Sports 2 at 12pm.

  • Julie Sanders