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via Sports Illustrated

PANAMA CITY, Panama — The U.S. tied Panama 1-1 in a World Cup qualifier here on Tuesday, fulfilling coach Bruce Arena’s objective of getting at least four points from the two March qualifiers, though the U.S. will be disappointed that it wasn’t more after a defensive breakdown allowed Panama to score the equalizing goal at the end of the first half.

The tie left the U.S. in fourth place (1-1-2, five points) in the Hexagonal, two places higher than it was to start the week. The top three teams in the six-team, 10-game tournament will automatically qualify for the World Cup, with the fourth-place team going to an intercontinental playoff against Asia’s fifth-placed team.

Two goals came in a flurry at the end of the first half. Clint Dempsey put the U.S. ahead in the 39th minute after Christian Pulisic hoodwinked two Panamanian defenders in the box and delivered a pinpoint assist. It was Dempsey’s 56th career international goal, putting him just one behind the all-time U.S. men’s record held by Landon Donovan.

But while Arena wanted his team to run out the first-half clock, Panama struck back quickly. Off a throw-in in the U.S. end, defender Tim Ream misplayed the ball by turning his back to it, and Gabriel Gómez pounced on the loose ball in the box to equalize.

Here are three thoughts on the game:

Pulisic has got the gift

Kicked relentlessly by the Panamanians, who picked him out from the start, Pulisic nevertheless showed once again that he has the rarest of talents in soccer: The ability to create a goal out of nothing even in hostile environments. Receiving a mostly innocuous pass on the right side, the 18-year-old figuratively pulled down the pants of veteran Felipe Baloy in the box, then stopped on a dime on the edge of the six with scary poise before beating Román Torres and feeding the ball to Dempsey for the first U.S. goal. Read More