American men dig a hole in one and then go back to digging a second one. 

The Americans sit at the top of Concacaf’s World Cup qualifying standings following a win against Jamaica. They are now trailing archrival Mexico, who had a disappointing effort against Panama Sunday night.

The 1-0 loss was the USMNT’s first-ever to Panama in World Cup qualifying, and only second overall. 

On Wednesday, the Americans will host Costa Rica in Columbus (Ohio). This is the second game in the qualifying round, and it is just five games long. 

“It’s massive. It’s a really big game. Walker Zimmerman (the captain of the United States against Panama) said that everyone has to get up for it. You have to win your home games if you take a look at them. They become increasingly important when you don’t get a result on the road.”

It was a tough start for the U.S. Men in qualifying. They got just two points last month from El Salvador games and one at home against Canada. After they were having trouble in Honduras in the first half, Ricardo Pepi brought the team back to life by scoring an equalizer for Antonee and the winning goal. 

Two more goals were also scored by him, which helped the Americans to third in the standings. All three of the top teams qualify automatically for the 2022 Qatari World Cup. The fourth-place team is eligible to play in a playoff.

Pepi’s goals last week against Jamaica put them at the top. Now they trail archrival Mexico, ahead of next month’s game in Cincinnati.

“The good thing is, we’re still in second place, we have the most goals scored and one of the least amount of goals allowed,” coach Gregg Berhalter said.

Four years ago, the Americans failed to qualify in Russia for 2018 World Cup. They learned something.  

Given the U.S. Men’s dominance in Panama previously, it was no surprise that they did so Sunday. 

Berhalter is second for his seven lineup adjustments, which probably contributed to Americans being out of tune all night. 

The midfielders were an inept bunch, and they couldn’t keep possession of the ball because of their repeated, careless mistakes. They also didn’t display any offensive force. Zimmerman’s header off a corner kick in the fourth minute that sailed a few inches above the crossbar the closest to a goal they came.

Kellyn Acosta reacts after losing to Panama in a Concacaf World Cup qualifier at Rommel Fernandez stadium, Panama City, Panama.

Despite Christian Pulisic (ankle) and Gio Reyna (hamstring) back in Europe, Berhalter didn’t start Pepi. After coming on in the 65th, Berhalter took three minutes to take a shot, this time from within the box. It was wide enough for him and all the Americans not to be threatened.

Panama, meanwhile, had several chances in the first half off set pieces before finally scoring in the 54th on Anibel Godoy’s glancing header off a corner kick.

“Now (the lineup changes) doesn’t look like best choice, but I think we have to wait until Thursday,” Berhalter said. “If we played the same players from the last game (against Panama) … I’m not sure we would position ourselves in the best way to win again on Wednesday.” 

Perhaps. They were in complete control, but now they have to make a move.

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