For the first time since 2017, the U.S. Men’s National Team played a World Cup Qualifier at Exploria Stadium and for the second time, the home side won by a four-goal margin.
A 5-1 win in qualifiers on Sunday at Exploria Stadium was inspired by a Christian Pulisic hat-trick.
In a must-win match to keep the hopes of qualification alive, the USMNT came out firing, scoring three goals within the first 30 minutes. A penalty from captain Christian Pulisic, a header from Paul Arriola, and a tap-in from Jesus Ferreira had the home side rolling. Another Pulisic penalty just before halftime sent his side into the locker rooms up 4-0.
“Coming into the game we knew we were in a position where the group needed to respond,” Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said after the match. “When I look at the effort and intensity of the first half and the level that we’re playing, it was really impressive. You can see exactly what the guys took on, and their motivation to get back to the World Cup.”
The second half slowed down offensively, but a moment of brilliance from Pulisic saw the US get a fifth and Pulisic get his first national team hat-trick.
Panama would get one back late on through Nashville SC man Anibal Godoy as he headed in a set-piece, but the Stars and Stripes would hold on for the massive result.
“The crowd was unbelievable,” Berhalter said of the Orlando crowd, “When I was talking before the game about how we enjoy playing in Orlando, this is exactly why. The crowd, even when we arrived at the stadium, people were in their seats and cheering and really helped boost the team.”
The US has one final match for officially qualifying for the World Cup, as they will face Costa Rica on Wednesday, March 30th. If they win, draw or lose by five goals or less, they will have qualified for the first time since 2014.
17′ – Christian Pulisic [PK] (US)
23′ – Paul Arriola, assisted by Antonee Robinson (US)
27′ – Jesus Ferreira (US)
45′+4 – Christian Pulisic [PK] (US)
65′ – Christian Pulisic, assisted by Antonee Robinson (US)
86′ – Anibal Godoy, assisted by Eric Davis (US)
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