PANAMA CITY — Christian Pulisic made an outstanding individual move to steal the ball, spin a defender and feed Clint Dempsey for his 56th international goal, and the United States hung on for an important 1-1 draw against Panama on Tuesday night in World Cup qualifying.
Dempsey’s 39th-minute goal on a warm and humid night moved him within one of Landon Donovan’s American scoring record, but the lead did not last long. Gabriel Gomez tied the score four minutes later following a throw-in.
Tim Howard thwarted Luis Tejada with a between-the-legs stop in the 59th minute, at 38 providing another top night in goal.
The U.S. was reeling after its first two games in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, 0-2 and last in the hexagonal.
Jurgen Klinsmann was fired in November and replaced by Bruce Arena, the U.S. coach from 1998-2006, and the Americans accomplished their immediate goal by getting back into contention with Friday’s 6-0 home rout of Honduras and a valuable point on the road.
Mexico leads with 10 points, followed by Costa Rica with seven, Panama with five, the U.S. and Honduras with four each, and Trinidad and Tobago with three.
El Tri won 1-0 at Trinidad and Costa Rica rallied for a 1-1 tie at Honduras. The top three nations qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia, and the No. 4 team advances to a playoff against Asia’s fifth-place nation.
Play resumes June 8 when the U.S. hosts Trinidad, most likely at Commerce City, Colorado, and the Americans start the second half of their schedule three days later at Mexico.
Pulisic, an 18-year-old who made his international debut on March 29 last year, is quickly establishing himself as the top American player with rare skill. He stole the ball from Panama captain Felipe Baloy at the edge of the penalty area and broke in on goal.
He stopped, stepped on the ball with his right foot as defender Roman Torres spun, played the ball from his right foot to his left and…