The United States found themselves in an unenviable position on Friday morning: dead last in their World Cup qualifying group. But by the end of the day, with a 6-0 win over Honduras in hand, they were up to fourth place.
Now, the Americans head to Panama, where a win would move them into third place at the worst. With the top three all advancing to the World Cup, they would officially be out of the forest and back where they need to be.
What do they need to do to take down Panama?
Keep trusting in Pulisic
Managers are often more conservative when they have to go on the road, and the atmosphere in Panama will be tough to deal with, but whatever Bruce Arena does, he needs to make Christian Pulisic his focus. It's been obvious for too long now that Pulisic is the Americans' best player and he was absolute dynamite against Honduras.
Pulisic may be 18 years old and putting so much responsibility on a teenager's shoulders in a hostile environment seems foolish, but this is no average 18-year-old. Arena could go more conservative, opting to drop a striker for another midfielder, but Pulisic still needs to be central and in a free role. He can make a more conservative U.S. team remain dangerous, something that can't be said of anyone else on the team.
There's a lot of options for Arena, but anything that reels Pulisic in shouldn't be one of them.
Survive the first 15 minutes
The Americans won't want to fall back and play in a shell to start the match, but it's imperative they keep Panama off the scoreboard in the opening quarter-hour. Letting a home team score early is a good way for things to spiral, as Honduras found out when Sebastian Lletget put the Americans in front early on Friday.
This is obviously easier said than done -- and maybe even obnoxiously obvious seeing as you never want to concede -- but if the Americans can get past those first 15 minutes then everything else gets easier.
Panama are a very physical team that will try to punish the USMNT. On top of that, CONCACAF refs are notoriously lax and will often let the home teams get away with a lot. The U.S. will be pushed, hit and kicked all match long. They need to be ready to deal with it.
Remember to track late runners
If the Americans struggled with anything against Honduras, it was tracking runners who came in a bit late. Too often, they strolled into the box, running past the midfield and without any centerbacks picking them up. John Brooks is out so it will be a new centerback pairing for the U.S., but whoever starts there needs to make sure they're aware of runners getting on the end of crosses. It's something the U.S. did not do a good job of and Panama will hit plenty of crosses.
Be aware of fitness issues
It's tough for anyone to make the long flight to play in a World Cup qualifier, then make another long flight to Panama for another qualifier four days later. That alone brings up some fitness questions, but those concerns will be especially true for a U.S. team already dealing with some fitness problems.
Clint Dempsey only just returned from a heart condition and played 90 minutes against Honduras. How much more does he have left in the tank? Meanwhile, Geoff Cameron is also returning from injury.
Arena will have to be aware of each player's fitness and how much they can give in Panama. The good news is Arena is exceptional at that.