And with the qualifying campaign entering the final, tense stretch - two matches over five days to determine whether the Americans secure an automatic berth in the 2018 tournament in Russian Federation - all eyes are on Arena's decision ahead of Friday's showdown against Panama at Orlando City Stadium. It is becoming repetitive and exhausted to pile on the praise on Pulisic but we can not avoid the 800-pound gorilla in this U.S. World Cup qualifying - the ticket to Russian Federation is never booked without Pulisic's contribution.

A win for Panama in its final match against Costa Rica will secure fourth place for Panama at least.

Through it all, the U.S. now finds itself fourth in the Hex standings, behind the very Panama team they play in Orlando on Friday.

Mexico already clinched, while Costa Rica is on the verge.

Another difference: The fourth-place Americans (2-3-3, 9 points) won't be able to qualify for Russian Federation on Friday. It is likely that a tie may be enough to see them through, however, it is all to play for as a slip-up on Tuesday in Couva can have dire consequences.

The brilliant 19-year-old scored one goal and made another in a sensational early barrage that left Panama reeling. With his attacking savvy, along with fantastic performances from Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood up front, the Americans flipped the script on Panama, which had allowed only five goals in its previous eight Hex matches.

The fourth, scored by Wood, came just after the hour. His pass wasn't great and Altidore's shot was blocked, but the message was clear: Pulisic was intent on dominating the game.

On the other hand, Honduras need all three points to keep their qualification hopes alive, which all but guarantees a thrilling encounter.

"There's been a real sense of urgency", captain Michael Bradley said. Predictably, Jorge Villafaña and DeAndre Yedlin were on the corners.

Heading into his first worldwide match since turning 19 in September, Pulisic has developed into the top American player since making his debut in the Bundesliga in January 2016. Furthermore, Arena is fond of the Gonzalez-Besler partnership. This Friday's game really is a toss-up and could be decided by a lucky bounce.

But the last time Panama and the United States met on the pitch, Panama was able to eek out a 1-1 draw, frustrating the USA and their attack. Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela was in attendance Friday, as were a large contingent of compatriots. A more physical presence, comfortable with his back to the goal and giving opposing centerbacks fits with his aerial prowess and ability to hold the ball and act as a pivot, Altidore is enjoying one of his best spells for the US men's team.

"He's our wonder boy", Howard said of Pulisic.

The golden boy of American football was in the thick of the action again, this time teeing up Toronto FC star Altidore for US's second in the 19th minute.

"He was kicked a few times", Arena said.

He dodged Roman Torres' sliding challenge. He then dribbled to his right, juking Panama keeper Jaime Penedo. Pulisic left Penedo in his wake and, from an acute angle, slid the 6-yard shot into the vacant net as he tumbled to the wet grass.

"We have the team to do more than what it takes to get to the World Cup", Bedoya said.

Penedo briefly kept the US from going up 3-0 in the 40th minute when he stopped Altidore all alone in the less side of the box.

The Americans were not out of danger, though, because Bradley found himself overloaded in midfield and the back line was perilously stretched. But moments later, Altidore gave the US the 3-0 lead when he converted on a penalty kick in the 43rd minute.

Wood drew the penalty kick after he exchanged passes with Paul Arriola along a flank, broke past Felipe Baloy, spurted diagonally into the penalty area and was pushed down by Armando Cooper.


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