Jozy Altidore's Panenka Shows A Mean Streak The USA Have Never Had Before
The USMNT has a mean streak now. They're still the team that lost to Costa Rica and drew Honduras last month, and that still needs at least a draw against Trinidad & Tobago to be completely sure of not being knocked out of World Cup qualifying, but when they want to be dickish, this team can be gloriously dickish.
Up 2-0 in a must-win World Cup qualifier is a spot where one is surely expected to put a penalty in the corner and see out the rest of the game. But Jozy Altidore didn't want to just see out the rest of the game. He wanted to send a message. He wanted to let Panama know that resistance would be futile. There is only one type of penalty that sends that particular message.
That is a move only a team looking to humiliate its opponent would try. That is a move only a team looking to crush its opponent's spirit would try. Jozy Altidore didn't just score, he spit in Panama's face and dared them to do something about it (which, presumably, is why he got a drink tossed at him during the celebration).
USA teams of years past would not have done this. Clint Dempsey is the only player I can think of with enough swagger to do that. The USMNT has long made its reputation with practicality, and there is nothing practical about a Panenka penalty. Even if it works, you still get second-guessed by folks on TV.
This may not be the best USMNT side ever, but it does have more true footballers than any other, players who appreciate the beautiful game as much as they do winning. Appreciating the beautiful game means trying to embarrass defenders at every opportunity, and Altidore, Pulisic and company are here to do that. They just might not win.