SEATTLE -- Jozy Altidore scored in his third consecutive match to spark the United States to a 2-0 victory over Panama and into the CONCACAF hexagonal lead on Tuesday night.
The forward struck in the opening half and Eddie Johnson added an insurance goal eight minutes into the second half for the Americans (3-1-1, 10 points) before 40,847 spectators at CenturyLink Field, the seventh largest crowd in U.S. qualifying history.
Panama (1-3-1, 6 pts.), which played to a scoreless home tie with Mexico last Friday, competed without top scorer Blas Perez, who missed the game with gastroenteritis.
The U.S. holds a two-point lead over Costa Rica (2-2-1, 8 pts.) and Mexico (1-5-0, 8 pts.), who played to a scoreless draw in Mexico City earlier in the night.
Altidore gave the Americans a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute. Roma midfielder Michael Bradley surged up the field and drew two defenders. He laid off the ball to Fabian Johnson, who sent it across the goalmouth. Clint Dempsey ran toward the near post to pull the last marker away, leaving Altidore open to tap it in past goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. It was the AZ Alkmaar forward's 16th international goal.
The Canaleros almost pulled even during first-half stoppage time as Luis Tejada slipped behind the defense and put the ball past goalkeeper Tim Howard, but he was ruled to be offside. The visitors also nearly found the back of the net in second-half added time, but Howard knocked away Rolando Blackburn's shot.
Two players who replaced injured teammates combined for the second goal. Geoff Cameron, starting in place of midfielder Jermaine Jones, lifted the ball over the defense to a streaking Eddie Johnson. The Seattle Sounder, a forward who took over for Graham Zusi, finished clinically with his left foot, depositing the ball into the side netting for a two-goal advantage.
The Americans, who are unbeaten (22-2-0) in home qualifiers since losing to Honduras on Sept. 1, 2001 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., host Los Catrachos (2-1-2, 7 pts.) in Sandy, Utah next Tuesday. Panama plays at Costa Rica the same day.