United States passes by Panama, almost a lock for World Cup

Posted by Jason York, ESPN Stats & Information

The United States surged into first place in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying with a 2-0 win Tuesday night over Panama in Seattle.

With the win, the U.S. has 10 points from its first five matches, two points better than both Costa Rica and Mexico, and according to ESPN's Soccer Power Index, the Americans are now rated a virtual lock to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil at 98.5 percent.

In fact, since qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, there have been seven CONCACAF teams with at least 10 points through five matches and six of them qualified for the World Cup (Costa Rica had 12 points through five matches and failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup).

And the one time Team USA had not reached 10 points through the fifth match, they still qualified for the World Cup in 1998.

Here are some other statistical observations from the match:

* Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson scored goals in each half for the U.S., and both players have regained their goal-scoring form at the international level. Altidore has scored in three straight appearances for the first time in his U.S. career. Eddie Johnson now has 11 goals in 16 World Cup qualifiers, which is third-most all-time for Team USA, behind only Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan (12 each).

* Altidore and Johnson benefitted from an improved U.S. passing game. The U.S. completed 82.5 percent of its passes against Panama, its highest percentage in its five hexagonal matches, and also completed 508 passes, its highest total number to date in qualifying.

* The Americans were especially precise passing into the attacking third of the field as they completed 66.7 percent of their passes, their highest percentage in this final round of qualifying. In its last two games in qualifying, the U.S. has completed 204 passes into the attacking third; it had 188 in its previous three games combined.

* Midfielder Fabian Johnson was the most dangerous U.S. passer in the attacking third. Johnson completed 12 of 15 passes into the attacking third, including the assist on Altidore’s first-half goal.

* Geoff Cameron was pressed into a midfield role because of Jermaine Jones’ concussion suffered against Jamaica, and he delivered a lofted 36-yard chipped pass into Johnson’s path that he finished for the second U.S. goal. It is just the second assist on a pass of 35-plus yards since Jurgen Klinsmann took over as coach. The other assist was recorded by Jones in a friendly against Venezuela in January 2012.

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