USA-Panama: Canaleros have no answer for the 'muchacho'

If there was any doubt who is the star of the U.S. national team, Friday's USA-Panama game made it crystal clear.

The USA got a bunch of excellent performances, many of its best of the Hexagonal, yet one player stood out from the rest in the 4-0 win.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard called him "our wonder boy," while Panama's Colombian coach, Hernan Dario Gomez, simply referred to his as "ese muchacho" ("that kid").

USA-Panama was all over after 19 minutes thanks to Christian Pulisic.

He blew past the giant Roman Torres and rounded Jaime Penedo to put the USA ahead 1-0  after only nine minutes. On the second goal 10 minutes later, Pulisic burst past Panamanian right back Michael Murillo  on the left wing and fired a perfectly angled pass with his left foot into the middle for Jozy Altidore  to make it 2-0.

The day before the game, a tearful Felipe Baloy, a veteran of 18 seasons, described Friday's game as the biggest game of his career. But the Panamanian center back was overrun so badly by Bobby Wood, Pulisic and Altidore in the first half that Gomez mercifully subbed him off at the break with the score 3-0.

There was only one way to stop Pulisic and that was to get him out of the game. Which is exactly what happened. Kicked in the calf by Murillo, Pulisic hobbled off in the 55th minute.

Howard said Concacaf opponents have only one strategy: "'Kick the kid from Dortmund.’ It’s clear. You can see it."

Gomez said Pulisic was the difference in the game.

"The kid killed us," he said. "He did what he wanted."

Gomez said the key to playing against the USA is denying space for Pulisic and his cohorts to roam free.

“In the other games we played against the United States," he said, "we never gave them so much space in the back. This time we gave them space and that was the error. They took advantage and they were superior and we were bad and they hit us hard.”

The USA was so far superior Gomez said the USA should have scored 10 goals. It settled for four goals, two from Altidore and one each from Pulisic and Wood.

“They smelled blood from the beginning,” Howard said of the U.S. attack that also featured Darlington Nagbe and Paul Arriola on the wings. “Any time they picked up the ball, it was either a yellow-card foul or some sort of breakaway."

Arena described Pulisic as "an exceptional player" but he said he depended on having other good players around him to be effective.

"The better collection of players we have around Christian," said Arena, "he’s just going to be a better player."

The modest Pulisic concurred.

"I’m happy I was able to contribute a little bit and contribute a goal," he said. "It was a really good team performance."

35 comments about "USA-Panama: Canaleros have no answer for the 'muchacho'".
  1. Bob Ashpole, October 7, 2017 at 4:38 a.m.

    Pulisic deserves praise, but it is a team sport. Messi and Ronoldo will apparently not be playing at the finals. The same story has been retold many times.

    This team needed great performances all over the field and the whole team stepped up. Even the coaches were spot on, but then this year we take coaching for granted. Good adjustments were made during the match. 

    Time now to focus on the next match.

  2. Thomas Malone, October 7, 2017 at 8:56 a.m.

    I thought it rather classless of Altidore to celebrate so self-centeredly after Pulisic had done 99% of the work on that second goal, presenting Altidore with a virtual tap in on a silver platter.  Does Altidore think that his self-centered celebration is going to make us forget who created that goal?  He should have immediately turned to Pulisic, pointing with both hands, acknowledging the creator of that goal, and run over to celebrate with him.  That's what I see most other professionals doing in situations like that.

  3. Todd Felton replied, October 7, 2017 at 10:17 a.m.

    I agree completely. I'm really glad you brought that up. 

  4. Neil Farnsworth replied, October 7, 2017 at 10:41 a.m.

    I think Altidore did point to Pulisic after his goal. He was clearly happy to have scored but I thought he acknowledted Pulisic's assist. What I don't understand is why Altidore or anyone else isn't in the face of the opponents who are kicking Pulisic. The referee's are letting bigger players kick Pulisic but that doesn't mean the other players on his team should let them do it without confronting them and threatining retaliation if it continues. That's what I have not understood over the last two games. 

  5. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, October 7, 2017 at 11:36 a.m.

    Wow, some people hate Altidore so much they even criticize him when he scores.  Geez.  Whether he pointed at CP or not, everyone who saw that goal knows CP was responsible for it.

  6. frank schoon replied, October 7, 2017 at 11:36 a.m.

    Thomas,  as I'm watching this tape,  Pulisic after he scored the first goal never even acknowledged Altidore, never even pointed to Altidore, as a matter of fact Altidore ran to Pulisic and congratulated him. At least Altidore when he scored it took a couple of seconds after displaying his joy pointed to Pulisic twice. But this is all besides the point, this silliness of having to point to the assist man and thanking him is so rediculous! Next thing we're going to see is the  assist men receive a bouquet of flowers on the field presented to him by the scorer of the goal. Just get on with the game.  I'm from the old school we never gave thumbs up and acknowledged someone because he receive a good pass. This is a team game, how about  the assist men  go and congratulate or give thumbs up the player who gave him the pass that allowed the assist. So now we have fans  complaining , "oh, he didn't give him thumbs up for the pass or pointed to him for the assist,...oh, the humanity of it all....

  7. Zabivaka Sobaka replied, October 7, 2017 at 1:48 p.m.

    It is not about tapping it in...it is about being there

  8. cisco martinez, October 7, 2017 at 10:21 a.m.

    Interesting to see Cameron, Johnson, and feilhaber omitted by Arena. Pulisic was world class, arrieola reminds me a little of tab Ramos, and Gonzalez still looks slow and tactically unaware when to commit to a tackle and when to slow down the attacker. All in all great performance and onto Russia, well done boys, IN BRUCE WE TRUST!

  9. Miguel Dedo, October 7, 2017 at 11:07 a.m.

    Protect Pulisic has to be a priority.  If this means bringing back  Jermaine Jones, then bring him back.

  10. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, October 7, 2017 at 11:37 a.m.

    I agree CP needs some protection but hopefully that can be done without bringing back JJ, whose best days are long behind him.  He's nowhere near good enough to play for the USMNT at this point in his career.

  11. Eric Dibella, October 7, 2017 at 11:12 a.m.

    If it is known (and you cannot tell me the refs do not know this) that opposing teams are going to kick Pulisic, then how come the refs continue to let it go unpunished?  Our opponents get touched, they go down and the ref makes the call.  Pulisic gets kicked, slid and knocked and sometimes fouls are called.  It really pisses me off.  Made me want to get in the game to make some crunching tackles to send a message.  I was sort of hoping that Dax was going to hit a few of these jerks.

    Also, I cannot understand how these refs can let a shot to Besler's eye go either.  

    Another argument for refs from either Europe or South America.

  12. R2 Dad replied, October 7, 2017 at 1:44 p.m.

    Yes, the ESPN crew afterwards was discussing this. CONCACAF referees don't want to call these fouls, certainly not persistent infringement. The punch to the chest video clip is really icing on the cake. Maybe now that US Soccer has a smaller skill player worth protecting Sunil will deign it important enough to bring up with CONCACAF hefes next time they have a soiree. Because CONCACAF officiating levels  are far below that of UEFA. FIFA should insist on cross-pollination to highlight this matter and improve the overall level.

  13. Joe Linzner, October 7, 2017 at 11:17 a.m.

    Isn't it incredible that MOM was given to the self-centered and lead=footed Altidore. Credited him with a pass to Puisiic when in fact it was a ricochet off a Canalero which Pulisic managed to recover and skillfully converted into a plus. The goal by Altidore was a golden platter, that had he missed (which he almost did as he did several other gimmes) he would have thrown up his hands and blamed Pulisic for not giving a better pass. The Penalty was also provided by someone else and the execution thereof was abominable. Were I the coach I would have removed him right then! Talk about stupid arrogance. Perhaps he fails to realize he is part of a team and it is not about him.  Ridiculous to give this guy MOM and he should be set down and have the facts of life explained to him. I have often said that were Pulisic surrounded by better players he would really shine. That is plainly obvious and it took Arena how long to realize that????   However, super win, three points and now there is a chance, Go USA.

  14. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, October 7, 2017 at 11:40 a.m.

    I know - you were really hoping they'd lose so you could complain but since they won your need to complain and especially to bash Altidore needs an outlet so now you're "upset" he didn't thank Pulisic quickly enough for his assist.  Give me a break.

  15. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, October 7, 2017 at 11:41 a.m.

    Oh also, great idea - have better players.  Wow, I hope Bruce is seeking your counsel daily.  Truly visionary.  

  16. Phil Saucedo, October 7, 2017 at 11:31 a.m.

    I disagree. Altidore's celebration was not self centered. He acknowledge the fans with what I think  is "that's how it's done" posturing. After the team mob he jogged towards Pulisic shaking his finger. Self centered celebrations are those where the scorer runs away from his mates or flashes gangster like signs.
    Regardless of the celebration, I am glad to have finally seen some real offense and to have goals to celebrate.

  17. John Hofmann, October 7, 2017 at 12:02 p.m.

    The concern about protecting Pulisic was on my mind when I continued below this article to look at previous hexagconal results.  Interesting - the early game with Honduras.  Lletget was first class in the first few minutes, had scored the first goal, and he was put out of the game (and the season apparently, haven't heard a thing about him) by a really bad tackle.

  18. Mario Cesarone, October 7, 2017 at 12:13 p.m.

    This thuggery on Pulisic must stop.  Kasey Keller put it well, if Concacaf want to see world class players they need to put an end to this.  It really pisses me off that we have to watch hacks in our part of the world.  I see the Dortmund games every week and this hacking does not occur.  Pulisic gets pushed off the ball because he is small in stature, fine, but kicking ankles is reserved only for Concacrap hacks.   

  19. Joe Linzner, October 7, 2017 at 12:30 p.m.

    Fire Paul Gardner Now, 
    Never ever would I ever want to see the US lose. I do however reserve the right to my opinion as to Altidore and his self-importance. Secondly, I do not hate him nor anyone for a matter of fact. Do you ever isolate on him. Watch his movement. He scores goals nearly always provided for him. He does not even have a 10% success ration. In any case, I respect your opinion. Mine just differs with yours rather remarkedly! Take a look at the replay and tell me Altidore passed that ball. 

  20. Mark Grody replied, October 7, 2017 at 1 p.m.

    Might have been Altidore's best run off the ball ever :)

  21. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, October 7, 2017 at 2:41 p.m.

    He was trying to flick it on to CP although he didn't hit it how he wanted.  It got to CP regardless but that was luck.  What does that have to do with anything?  Altidore and Wood are the best forwards we have no by far.

  22. frank schoon, October 7, 2017 at 12:51 p.m.

    First of all I'm glad we won and now, I think, we are on our way for it looks good we'll win the next game. Having said that I was not impressed with either team. Panama chose the wrong tactical strategy thus leaving the backfield wide open for our "run and gun" players. THe only thing I can say about Panama is that they are much better individually and teamwise in the opponent's third.
    Neither team showed up with a good midfield, position wise or player wise. In other words neither team had midfield control. To have midfield control ,you need at least 5 to be around the midfield line to take care business by preventing a counter, or circulate the ball.
      The midfielders, specifically MB just sort of follows where you find the ball, he never looks behind him to block a passing lane to a striker guarded by one of his centerbacks, as a matter none of the midfielders do. On defense, MB,doesn't contribute anything to helping out defensively ,at least , in a positional sense.
    Nagbe, I'm afraid, doesn't have a clue. I'm willing to bet if you ask him, "what do you with the ball ,the moment you get it?", he would have to think about it. Nagbe slows the tempo of the game without even realizing it. So often when he gets the ball,he runs full speed with the ball ,either straight down the flank or diagonally. When he runs diagonallly, he obviously is clueless what he needs to do next. He'll run 25 yards with the ball and ends up giving a 5 yard pass to his teammate. By doing that he causes two things, one, he slows the tempo of the attack having to run all this time; two, he gives the opponents time to mark the player he will pass to and as result his teammate has little time and space to do anything with the ball. He is so predictable in his manner of play, for he does this every game. I fault the coaching staff for not seeing this and explaining that to him no matter how fast Nagby is he slows the game for he doesn't realize a pass is much faster than delivering the ball like UPS to a teammate. We have too many "run and gunners' making our offense to predictable. Brown reminds of a dog you take to a doggy park and unleash him and ends up running. There is no soccer connection between Altidore and Brown, the only linkage possible if Pulisic is nearby. Having Nagby, Brown, Altidore, Pulisic, is too much of one thing, "running", thereby leaving the attack too unbalanced and predictable. In this game it worked out for Panama gave so much space to run in, but with Costa Rica these guys were useless. The best goal was by Arriola, in the manner of how he received the ball and shot it.

  23. Joe Linzner replied, October 7, 2017 at 1:07 p.m.

    I agree, while great on the ball, foresight is not Nagbe's strong suit. My advice to all my players as well as my own when I was playing in the ice age was one: the ball is always faster than you are and you'll never lose the ball if you do not have it. Don't receive the ball and then look. Stay aware of teammates and be prepared before you receive it!  

  24. frank schoon replied, October 7, 2017 at 1:19 p.m.

    Joe, He is not even great on the ball.

  25. frank schoon, October 7, 2017 at 12:53 p.m.

    The problem we also have is the lack of leadership on the field. For example , in a normal situation a player like Pulisic would be told by his older  more experienced teammates to slow down becuase we're up by 3 goals. The problem is that ,Pulisic is on top of the player hierarchy which is not natural, for who is going tell him how the play. The US being up by a few goals is unable to control the game or tempo for we have ball loss after the second or third pass and this is also related to our poor midfield positioning.

  26. frank schoon, October 7, 2017 at 12:53 p.m.

    The problem we also have is the lack of leadership on the field. For example , in a normal situation a player like Pulisic would be told by his older  more experienced teammates to slow down becuase we're up by 3 goals. The problem is that ,Pulisic is on top of the player hierarchy which is not natural, for who is going tell him how the play. The US being up by a few goals is unable to control the game or tempo for we have ball loss after the second or third pass and this is also related to our poor midfield positioning.

  27. Thomas Malone replied, October 7, 2017 at 2:59 p.m.

    You're one funny dude!

  28. Joe Linzner, October 7, 2017 at 12:59 p.m.

    Fire Gardner Now::   It was Arena himself that said better players would make him better . Sic. 
      I misspoke re the ricochet, however, it was all Pulisic all the way. He had to reach back pull in the ball. secure it, sprint into the clear, juke the keeper and convert from an extreme angle. Not Alt. had a similar angle which he blasted into the side netting. 

  29. Rusty Welch, October 7, 2017 at 1:23 p.m.

    The dislike for Altidore is simply comical. Not only is he 3rd all-time in USMNT goals (kind of the main job of a striker), he's a good guy - he helped Haitians be able to watch their team after the hurricane. Lighten up Francis('s), he's been our most consistent scorer over the past few years.
    I completely agree about Nagbe, would rather see Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler or Weston McKennie - and with Pulisic able to play left, right or middle Arena should be able to work that out - Nagbe is worse than all of those guys. 
    Omar Gonzales (while not conceding a goal for the first time in a while) was again beaten several times, and out of position at others. He inspires zero confidence, and we would be much better with Cameron (and Brooks when he gets healthy). I'd even take a chance on Miazga at this point.
    Much better effort from the team, but as others have said Panama strategically screwed up by trying to run with us. Let's see another good effort on Tuesday - and Arena needs to do some serious lobbying w/Concacaf (as well as the team taking on the task) to protect Pulisic from the complete, ridiculous hackery going on!

  30. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, October 7, 2017 at 2:42 p.m.

    McKennie has played about five pro games and seriously Timmy Chandler?  No thanks.

  31. Rusty Welch replied, October 7, 2017 at 5:57 p.m.

    Uhhhh yeah, compared to Nagbe you must be joking. Chandler isn't flashy, he just gets the job done - and he knows how to cross the ball, unlike Nagbe. McKennie's only played 5 games in Bundesliga, but he brings 10x the hustle and better ball control already. At 18/19(?) he's won a starting spot in the Bundesliga - something Nagbe couldn't do right now if he tried. BTW, he also played w/Pulisic on the U-17 team. So yeah, completely and without reservation.

  32. Zabivaka Sobaka, October 7, 2017 at 2:15 p.m.

    Whats up goons!  T&D at home is not gonna be an easy proposition and will  be playing for pride. Mexico first team had their hands full with them at home...barely escaped humiliation. I would rather see Acosta or Roldan instead of Nagbe, otherwise was not too bad.....need to consider that Panama is rated as #60 in the world.  Pulisic is awesome and everybody else is mediocre at best.

  33. Ric Fonseca, October 7, 2017 at 6:56 p.m.

    Hola Senores, and VIVA USA!!!  Yes we can comment and say whtever the heck you want to, but can we just savor the moment? Leave the negativism aside, don't, or try not to introduce it into your essay.  So what do ya say, folks? VIVA USA!!!

  34. Joe Cate, October 7, 2017 at 7:41 p.m.

    On Pulisic's goal Altidore showed great emotion for the muchacho in addition totally respected Pulisic on his goal. Jody also ran up to the ref to complain after pulisic was kicked. Review the video and you will see.Don't be haters, we got a resounding three points and look good to qualify.

  35. Craig Cummings, October 7, 2017 at 9:56 p.m.

    We are almost in Putin land after Costa Ricas last minute goal. Not one good shot until goal.

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