The easy half is done- now comes the hard part. Well, that seems to be the conventional wisdom anyway. This pretty much ignores the fact that Honduras has qualified for consecutive World Cup Finals while Panama has never advanced beyond the regional tournament. Furthermore, the US Men’s National Team is 3-0-1 at Estadio Rommel and has never lost in Panama. Balancing the fact that it’s a road game in Central America on short rest, sure, we can say it’ll be a more difficult test for the Yanks this evening. Does that mean we shouldn’t expect three points now that the team is lead by tactics savant, Bruce Arena?
The upgrade in management was clear early as Arena’s genius to play an unknown teenager from suburban PA plying his craft in relative obscurity in old Prussia. Christian Pulisic (hope I spelled that right) was a revelation against Honduras. With the exception of Michael Bradley’s gimme from 25 yards out, Pulisic played a hand in all 6 goals on the evening which makes you wonder why Arena’s predecessor never gave this promising young talent a shot with Klinsmann’s teams failing to the tune of the 2nd best record in US History.
Digging further into Arena’s wizardry, you also have to credit his brilliance for offensive efficiency. The Yanks converted 2⁄3 of their shots into goals on Friday night in a masterful display which, since it’s perfectly sustainable, means the US are a shoo-in to qualify for the World Cup in Russia provided Arena isn’t bewitched by the lure of the Lira and the glittler and the glory of the Guinea. I fear, however, that England will swoop in with the big £££, we’ll be stuck with Dave Sarachan, while the Three Lions hoist the cup for the first time in over half a century.
Yeah, I guess suggesting England would win the World Cup was a bridge too far. Do they have a Pulisic? Nope. Good Luck, England. I’ll always be bitter at those rotten bastards for cheering for Ghana in Rustenburg during the 2010 World Cup, but at least I’ll never be ‘England fan’ bitter.
Jermaine Jones will be available for the game tonight, and as much as I see pundits and fans alike revel in the confirmation bias of a 6-0 home win where we converted a ridiculous amount of our opportunities, I see a similarly sized and yoked set of groupthinkers ready to retire Jones. This is a bad idea.
No player on this roster (or in the pool for that matter) brings the level of hardass that JJ does, and now that the magician has arrived, he’s going to need a bodyguard. Pulisic is going to take a beating tonight; he’s been found out by the region after Friday. How he handles that will give us the last data point to know if he’s ready to carry the team, and it will be good to see how he reacts to the attention and some abuse. Jones’s value, along with being a good central midfielder, is making sure that some doesn’t turn into constant. Again, no one in the pool offers the same toughness and level of deterrence for misbehavior that Jermaine Jones does, so he needs to start tonight. You’d hate to see your toy broken so soon after opening the box, right?
Join me for the thread this evening- I’ll Q&A for the upcoming fantasy round if the game/gifs get boring/out of hand.
How to watch
Time: 9:00 pm CT
Venue: Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City, Panama
TV: beIN Sports, Telemundo, NBC Universo