Things are moving in the right direction for the United States under Bruce Arena. Reuters

Things are suddenly moving smoothly for U.S. Soccer since the return of Bruce Arena as head coach. In the last two World Cup qualifying matches, the Yanks have a home victory over Honduras and a road draw against pesky Panama after lackluster play against Mexico and Costa Rica.

Perhaps most importantly, the squad seems to be playing with more organization and confidence than under Jurgen Klinsmann. Arena, who first coached the U.S. from 1998 to 2006, appears to have injected new life into a stagnant attack that was inconsistent with possession and executive passes into the penalty box. Veterans like Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore are playing with renewed enthusiasm and it looks as though their efforts have carried over to the rest of the squad, and despite losing wingbacks Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin, along with forward Bobby Wood, to injuries.

But these are not exactly ideal conditions for Arena's side after disappointing results at the start of qualifying. With six matches remaining, the U.S. is even with Panama for fourth place and sit just one point ahead of last-place Trinidad and Tobago. On the schedule for the U.S. is a road date in June with Mexico, a side that often seems unstoppable at Azteca Stadium.

However, it would be premature to hit the panic button. Three CONCACAF teams will reach the 2018 World Cup with the fourth-place finisher earning a home-and-away playoff with the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC). In 2013, it was Mexico that squeaked into the playoff and then followed their good fortune with a dismantling of New Zealand in the first leg, 5-1, and followed it up with a 4-2 win on the road.

There's also reason to be optimistic based on the level of play of certain individuals. Christian Pulisic continues to be a revelation. The 18-year-old was back in the U.S. lineup this past weekend and remains a top contributor for Borussia Dortmund, a German club battling for second place in one of the most competitive leagues in the world. Demonstrating some deft moves and slick passing, Pulisic has been a major boost for Arena, by adding some much-needed creativity. Meanwhile, Jorge Villafana proved he is a serviceable option at left back and midfielder Darlington Nagbe has been impressive in the attack.

The calendar also seems to benefit the Yanks. When the U.S. hosts heavy underdog Trinidad and Tobago on June 8, they will be expected to grab three points and move into third place on the same day as Costa Rica's meeting with Panama. Three days later, Arena will likely seek a draw against Mexico in Mexico City.

From there it gets more interesting. The U.S. will have a home-and-away situation in the first week of September, with Costa Rica at home followed by Honduras on the road. The scores were lopsided in the first meetings and the upcoming matches can expect to be much tighter with the sides more familiar with one another.

Winning the group by overtaking Mexico is probably out of the question. But the U.S. can probably expect a second- or third-place finish in the hexagonal and avoid the playoff.

Also on the schedule is the Gold Cup, a CONCACAF tournament that is always hosted in the U.S. In group action, the Yanks may face a bit of competition in the first match, when they meet Panama in Nashville, Tennessee, on July 8. From there the schedule gets considerably less daunting with matches against Martinique and Nicaragua.

USA World Cup Qualifying Schedule
USA vs. Trinidad and Tobago - June 8
Mexico vs. USA - June 11
USA vs. Costa Rica - Sept. 1
Honduras vs. USA - Sept. 5
USA vs. Panama - Oct. 6
Trinidad and Tobago vs. USA - Oct. 10

Gold Cup Schedule

USA vs. Panama - Nashville, Tennessee - July 8
USA vs. Martinique - Tampa, Florida - July 12
Nicaragua vs. USA - Cleveland, Ohio - July 15