US coach blasts Panama over tough tack­ling

New Straits Times - - Sport -

PANAMA CITY: United States coach Bruce Arena ac­cused Panama of tar­get­ing teenage star Chris­tian Pulisic af­ter a rugged CONCACAF World Cup qual­i­fy­ing bat­tle ended in a 1-1 draw on Tues­day.

Clint Dempsey scored his fourth goal in two games to give the US a pre­cious point on the road as they aim to get their World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion cam­paign back on track un­der Arena fol­low­ing the sack­ing of Jur­gen Klins­mann in Novem­ber.

Dempsey, who scored a hat­trick on his re­turn to in­ter­na­tional foot­ball against Hon­duras last week, tucked away a 39th-minute goal af­ter a su­perb run by Borus­sia Dort­mund’s Pulisic.

But Amer­i­can hopes of an away vic­tory to fol­low last week’s 6-0 drub­bing of Hon­duras were dashed af­ter they con­ceded a soft equaliser through Gabriel Gomez on 43 min­utes.

Arena said after­wards he was sat­is­fied with the re­sult and pleased with the per­for­mance of Pulisic, 18, who was on the re­ceiv­ing end of some un­com­pro­mis­ing chal­lenges through­out.

“Panama thought there was a bulls­eye on his back and they went af­ter him from the first minute all the way through,” Arena said of Pulisic. “He has to learn that the ref­eree won’t al­ways pro­tect him. But he did well and he came through it.

“(Pulisic) plays in a big league with a big club team and a big com­pe­ti­tion. It’s part of the process I think. Prob­a­bly play­ers are bet­ter pro­tected in his club com­pe­ti­tion.

“It’s all part of the learn­ing curve for him. Next time round will be bet­ter for him.”

Mex­ico tight­ened their grip on the “Hexag­o­nal” stand­ings with a 1-0 vic­tory over Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain.

Mex­ico now have 10 points from four games, lead­ing from Costa Rica, who could only man­age a draw against last placed Hon­duras on Tues­day. AFP

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