Pulisic’s first hat trick leads the United States to a 5-1 victory on the brink of a World Cup

ORLANDO, Fla. – The American players unfurled a red and blue banner with “QUALIFIED” in black and white letters, when Christian Pulisic found out what was happening.

“The boys didn’t know what he was saying. He was just given his hand,” the American star said. “Once we realize that, there’s no need to show that because we still have work to do.”

Pulisic’s first international hat trick took Panama 5-1 to the United States on Sunday night and brought the Americans to the brink of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 2014.

Only a loss of six or more goals in Wednesday night’s final in Costa Rica would have kept the Americans from getting one of three automatic positions in North and Central America and the Caribbean. They can’t finish worse than quarterfinals, which is a June playoff, probably against New Zealand.

“We honestly approach each other like any other party,” Pulisic said. “We’re going to prepare exactly the same thing we would do if we needed a win.”


Pulisic converted two penalties in a four-goal shot in the first half in which Paul Arriola and Jesús Ferreira also scored.then bolstered the 5-0 in a memorable goal with two brilliant touches that eluded a pair of defenses.

Canada (28 points) took first place since 1986 with a 4-0 victory over Jamaica. The United States (25) is second ahead of Mexico by goal difference and Costa Rica (22) is fourth.

Although the United States has never won in Costa Rica, the goal difference is the first tiebreaker, and the Americans are 13 more against the top three of the Ticos. The USA also has the second tie of the total of goals, 21 to 11.

In October 2017, the United States defeated Panama 4-0 in Orlando and only needed a draw in Trinidad four days later, but fell in a 2-1 defeat. Pulisic and Arriola were the only remnants of that night.

“I’m not celebrating anything,” Arriola said. “I was in that exact position or in a very similar position four years ago, and we know how that qualification ended.”


Pulisic’s 21 international goals include 12 in qualifying for the World Cup. With the captain’s armband, he scored in the 17th minute and in the fourth minute of the first half discount, both after fouls by Aníbal Godoy. Pulisic has 6 of 6 on penalties in his American career.

His Goal in the 65th minute it was exquisite. After Luca de la Torre and Antonee Robinson exchanged passes twice, Robinson crossed. With his back to the goal, a spinning Pulisic touched with his left leg, turned to Fidel Escobar and held the ball by his own legs. Pulisic placed the ball out of reach of the right flank of Andrés Andrade and slotted it home for Luis Mejía.

“I just want to play in a World Cup and this team too,” Pulisic said. “I’m very happy that we can be in a good position to do it and finish the job.”


Pulisic’s fire was shown to be a yellow card after 69 minutes for slicing down an opponent.

“His role involves making special plays and scoring a few goals,” Berhalter said. “His pace of defensive work, his duels, his second balls, his passing challenges, dribbles, whatever, he did tonight.”

After winning the World Cup for the first time in 2018, Panama was eliminated. Godoy scored Panama’s goal in the 86th with a free kick by Eric Davis that overtook Zack Steffen.

Salvadoran referee Ivan Barton awarded the first penalty after a video review, and concluded that Godoy had put his face on his Nashville teammate Walker Zimmerman.

Pulisic helped set up the second goal in the 23rd minute, crossing a long ball from Zimmerman and launching Antonee Robinson, who centered. Arriola, all 5 feet 6, outscored Davis by 5 feet 11 for his ninth international goal – only the second header of his career.


Fans who repeatedly denigrate Major League Soccer players in online forums have criticized Berhalter for selecting Arriola.

“There will always be people who hate and have their own opinions, and I try to stay focused on myself,” Arriola said radiantly. “I know how valuable I am and how valuable I can be to this team.”

Ferreira made it 3-0 in the 29th minute with a shot from 4 meters with the right that beat goalkeeper Luis Mejía. Ferreira’s third international goal culminated in a 17-touch sequence featuring Arriola (four-touch), Yunus Musah (four), Luca de La Torre (two), Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Shaq Moore (four).

Moore was a disappointment, as he was substituted for Sergiño Dest after 26 minutes following a nasty collision. Seven regulars were missing and about 20 members of the U.S. traveling group had a stomach bug in Mexico.


Godoy’s second penalty was for pushing Miles Robinson. Luis Mejía dived to the left, and Pulisic went to the top right of the goalkeeper with the first shot. Mejia guessed right on the left in the second, but Pulisic’s thrust was too hard and too close to the post for the doorman to arrive. The United States scored four goals in the first half of a tie for the first time since the 5-2 victory over Cuba in 1949.

After his second goal, Pulisic was celebrated with a worm dance. His parents were among the 25,022 attendees and he shared the victory with them in front of the bench after the final whistle.

“They just told me they were proud,” Pulisic said, his voice full of emotion. “They were everything to me in my life. So it was a good time.”


Notes: Costa Rica beat El Salvador 2-1 with goals from Anthony Contreras on a bicycle kick in the 30th minute and Joel Campbell in the first minute of the first half discount around Christian Gil’s score in the 31st. Mexico won 1- 0 to Honduras with the goal of Edson Alvarez in the 70th minute.


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Pulisic’s first hat trick leads the United States to a 5-1 victory on the brink of a World Cup

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