CONCACAF did not do the United States Men’s National Team any favors when they released the final schedule for their World Cup qualifying journey. Three of their first four games were on the road (Honduras, Mexico and Jamaica), a place that has been a struggle for the USMNT.
However, through their first four games the Americans are in solid shape with a quality seven points and the rest of their qualifying future looks promising with a bevy of home matches looming. One of the many opportunities to improve their chances at qualifying for the 2014 World Cup comes tonight as the U.S. hosts Panama in Seattle.
One could say that the U.S. is carrying a lot of momentum into their fifth qualifying match but it’s not going to be easy against a pesky Panama side. Panama has recently proven to be a tough out for the U.S., evidenced by their loss in the 2011 Gold Cup, which was their first group-stage defeat in the history of that tournament.
On top of their recent struggles against The Canaleros, the U.S. side will not be at full strength as two members of their starting 11 against Jamaica will miss tonight’s match. Graham Zusi is suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards and Jermaine Jones is out with a concussion. Missing Zusi and Jones will throw a kink into the chemistry that the Americans were just starting to build but a home match should provide a boost regardless.
Manager Jurgen Klinsmann will be faced with some tough lineup decisions but he’s proven that he can make those decisions with plenty of success to show for it. Most recently Matt Besler’s stand-out performance in a road draw at Mexico and DaMarcus Beasley’s transition into a left back is evidence of Klinsmann’s successful decisions.
A very encouraging sign for the U.S. is the resurgence of striker Jozy Altidore, who has a two-game goal streak going after suffering a year long drought of scoreless caps. Along with Altidore’s recent play, Clint Dempsey has continued to be the class of the squad, scoring four goals in five games since being named captain.
If the USMNT can manage another three points tonight they will find themselves in the driver’s seat of their qualifying hopes. Including tonight’s match in Seattle the U.S. has four of their next five World Cup qualifying contests on U.S. soil so now is the time for the Americans to take advantage.