With their World Cup qualifying fate hanging in the balance, Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore helped the United States to a crucial 4-0 victory over Panama. Altidore had two goals and an assist, all in the first half, to lead the United States to victory.
The win means the Americans leapfrog Panama in the standings of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Barring disaster in Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday, this means they earn an automatic spot at the Russia 2018 World Cup.
There was some concern that the United States would have to play-in to the World Cup, which would mean an extra set of games in mid-November. Those games would fall precariously close to MLS playoff dates, and would be a big issue for teams like Toronto FC with multiple US internationals.
However, MLS fans can be thankful that disastrous scenario looks to have been avoided after the United States steamrolled a lackadaisical Panama side.
It took them just eight minutes into the match to find an opener when Bobby Wood and Jozy Altidore combined to play the ball into the path of Christian Pulisic. The 19-year-old American phenom did the rest.
It was then Pulisic who returned the favour when he found Jozy Altidore all alone in front of the net in the 19th minute as the United States doubled their lead. Pulisic did most of the work, but that takes nothing away from a clever run from Altidore to give himself the space to tap home the perfect cross.
The American attacking trio of Wood, Altidore and Pulisic was dynamic throughout the match and caused Panama all sorts of problems. It was Wood whose creative play won the United States a penalty just before halftime.
After some brilliant dribbling, Wood got ahead of Panama’s Armando Cooper who brought him down in the box. Altidore calmly stepped up and dinked the ball over top of the Panama keeper to give the United States a 3-0 lead. It was a cheeky goal befitting of a striker clearly feeling confident.
Wood added one more goal in the second half to cap off a memorable performance from the United States. They are now just a win, or Panama loss or draw, away from qualifying for Russia 2018.