Bradley, Dempsey Score as U.S. Cruises Past Panama
The United States men's national team ended its five-game winless streak on Sunday, defeating Panama 2-0 and giving the sort of comprehensive performance it hadn't delivered in a long time.
BY John Godfrey PostedYES, IT WAS ONLY A FRIENDLY. Against a CONCACAF opponent. Three-and-a-half years out from the next World Cup. But Jurgen Klinsmann really needed a win against Panama on Sunday. And he got it. Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey scored first-half goals and the U.S. men's national team thoroughly dominated an outmanned Panama side, 2-0. The victory puts an end to the national team's five-game winless streak and will likely give Klinsmann a bit of breathing room after he made a series of comments that undermined his players, Major League Soccer, and the U.S. soccer media. The coach and technical director sent his team out in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with 35-year-old Nick Rimando in goal, Jermaine Jones once again in central defense, and Brek Shea a surprise starter at left back. Miguel Ibarra and Gyasi Zardes made their first starts for the U.S. national team. Ibarra made a strong impression early. In the ninth minute Michael Bradley lofted a long pass down the left flank—a sloppy pass, it must be said—and the vast majority of wingers in the U.S. player pool would have let the ball run over the touchline. But the speedy Ibarra did not give up on the play. He saved the ball in the corner and then pressured the Panamanian defender into a turnover in a dangerous position. The U.S. did not capitalize on the opportunity, but Ibarra's high-pressure play nearly created a chance. Despite his efforts, the United States looked completely toothless in attack for the first 25 minutes of the match. Ibarra, when he broke free on the left, flubbed his crosses. Shea had a wide-open opportunity on the same flank and delivered a sorry left-footed cross that dribbled straight to a defender. And right winger DeAndre Yedlin had a series of poor touches in the early going. The Americans got took the lead in the 27th minute when Bradley scored directly from a corner kick—an Olimpico—that he curled up and over Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and into the back of the net. Jozy Altidore playfully claimed credit for the goal but replays, and the official scorekeeper, gave Bradley his 13th career goal. Perhaps heartened by the dead ball success, the Americans then delivered on an impressive sequence from the run of play. Jozy Altidore started the play with an aggressive tackle near the center circle. Zardes stepped forward to claim the 50-50 ball and then the 23-year-old Hawthorne, Calif., native dribbled forward as the Panamanian defenders began to retreat. Clint Dempsey made a smart run straight down the center of the field and Zardes found him with a perfectly weighted pass that sent Dempsey in alone on goal. The 31-year-old Seattle Sounders striker made a clever step-over move to avoid Penedo and then tapped the ball into the open net to give the Americans a two-goal lead. Zardes, looking very much like a potential regular for the national team, created the chance, and Dempsey buried it for his 40th tally in a U.S. uniform. Three minutes later the Yanks gifted Panama a goal chance when Rimando made a slightly awkward pass to Matt Besler and the Sporting Kansas City made a hash of it, making a poor touch and then falling down to give Panama's Blas Perez a free shot from 10 yards out. Much to Rimando and Besler's relief, Perez unleashed an awful shot that was nowhere near goal. In the 43rd minute the Americans came close to increasing their lead again. It began as Altidore dribbled down the left flank and delivered a pinpoint cross to Zardes. The Los Angeles Galaxy striker chested a lovely ball to a hard-charging Bradley, who blasted the ball on frame but straight at Penedo. After the play, Bradley high-fived Zardes, as if to say, "Welcome to the team, kid." During intermission Klinsmann subbed off Altidore and Rimando in favor of Chris Wondolowski and Sean Johnson. Neither would have to do much, however, as Panama seemed to lose its initiative as the second half unfolded. Indifferent defending and poor midfield play tilted the field in the Americans' favor, and the U.S. probably should have scored a few more goals than it did. Jones definitely should have done better with a wide open header midway through the half and in the 67th minute Wondolowski whiffed badly on an open shot from 10 yards away—a miss that brought back memories of his blown chance against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup. While the U.S. failed to put the game away, it did manage to thoroughly neutralize Panama's attack. The visitors only managed one shot on goal over 90 minutes. Perhaps sensing the game was in hand, in the 72nd minute Klinsmann handed out national team debuts for Matt Hedges and Perry Kitchen as Mix Diskerud and an injured Yedlin gave way. Given the U.S. national team's recent string of second-half collapses, there was still at bit of tension in the air at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. Would the Yanks give away another lead? Not this time. Perhaps inspired to play its best game since the World Cup, or perhaps because Panama is not a particularly good team, the Americans won this one going away. John Godfrey is the founder and editor in chief of American Soccer Now.
February 08, 2015
February 08, 2015