Gold Cup / USMNT

Gold Cup recap: USA 1-1 Panama

Continuing a trend, the US Men’s National Team struggled to find chemistry and consistency but did enough to get a result in the final match of the group stage in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Michael Bradley’s 14th international goal canceled out Blas Perez’s first half strike.

In need of a victory to guarantee passage into the knockout rounds, Panama was dominant throughout the first half and fully deserved their opener. However, a pair of halftime subs helped change the momentum for the US, with Alejandro Bedoya finding happy hunting grounds on the left flank and Clint Dempsey creating chances in the middle of the park.

With the draw, the US is on to the quarterfinals where it will meet one of the third place finishers.

First half

Having already secured a spot in the knockout rounds by defeating Haiti, Jurgen Klinsmann again shuffled his deck to give Bedoya and Alfredo Morales their first minutes of the tournament.

The new faces changed little as the US began slowly and struggled to complete simple passes or develop any sort of chemistry against a Panama side in desperate search of a victory.

The underdogs thought they had the perfect start when Luis Tejada put the ball in the back of the net in the 10th minute. However, the assistant referee alertly raised his flag to deny Panama their much-needed opener.

Bedoya had a chance to get the US out to an early lead minutes later. But after slipping past Erick Davis, the winger took too many touches and was forced into a tight-angle shot as Michael Bradley and Chris Wondolowski looked on in frustration.

Finding a rare moment in midfield, Bradley had a crack from distance in the 18th minute, but Jaime Penedo did well to push aside the swerving knuckler.

Panama had their heads in their hands on 22 minutes. Ventura Alvarado accidentally deflected a corner kick back towards his own goal. Brad Guzan reacted quickly, flying to his left to claw the ball off his line, and slap it away from an onrushing attacker. With the ball still unclaimed in the area, Fabian Johnson threw a leg out to block a dangerous follow up.

The US continued to concede cheaply out of the back, leaving Wondolowski and Gyasi Zardes starved for service up front. Panama settled into such a dominant period of play that Blas Perez’s opener in the 34th minute seemed almost inevitable. Despite recovering from an offside position, Luis Tejada was able to take on Ventura Alvarado, and beat the young American defender to the endline with ease. Tejada cut the ball back across the face of goal, leaving only the simplest of tap-ins for Perez as he floated free behind John Brooks.

The US looked to hit back in the 41st minute, but the Mexican referee, Roberto Garcia, shockingly waved play on when Bedoya was tripped up. just outside on the box

Anibal Godoy became the first Panama player to go into Garcia’s notebook on the stroke of halftime when he extended his elbow into Zardes’ head during a heavy midfield collision.

Second half

Looking to change momentum after a dour first half, Klinsmann hauled off the ineffective Morales, and the isolated Wondolowski, in favor of DeAndre Yedlin and Clint Dempsey.

Dempsey dropped into midfield to support his teammates while Yedlin and Bedoya offered more natural width on the flanks. And, in the early minutes of the second half, the US began to find their feet .

They would wait only 10 minutes before their reward arrived. Breaking into the attacking third, the initial chance looked gone after Dempsey lost control of the ball. But in his effort to go to ground, Dempsey sent Bedoya into the box. Spotting Bradley ghosting in at the back post, Bedoya sent a sharp pass across the box, allowing his captain to bang home a simple finish.

From there, the US pressed for an equalizer, but were nearly undone at the other end when their suspect transition defense let them down. In the 61st minute, Johnson went down under contact after storming forward to support the attack. As the US pleaded for a foul that was not coming, Panama targeted the space the left back had vacated. But when Perez left his touch slightly long at the top corner of the box, Brooks arrived with a saving slide tackle to keep the scores level.

Guzan needed to be sharp as Panama threw bodies forward knowing they needed a win to secure safe passage to the quarters. In the 73rd minute, the US keeper showed clean hands to gather substitute Miguel Camargo’s long range effort before denying him once more in spectacular fashion moments later.

When the US were again caught up field, this time on a corner, substitute Roberto Nurse had time and space to curl a ball into the path of Camargo, who had beaten Kyle Beckerman in a race into the box. Camargo looked on as Guzan was again equal to his effort, this time getting fingertips to the spinning effort and pushing it past the post.

Beckerman came close to finding the back of the net at the other end in the 77th minute. But after taking a short free kick and teeing up his shot, the veteran midfielder could only send his drive screaming past the near post.

The US was suddenly in the ascendancy with Dempsey and substitute Aron Johannsson continually influential. The linkup play only created half chances, however, as Panama centerbacks Roman Torres and Harold Cummings did well to snuff out danger before it truly materialized.

With time running out, Panama resorted to shots from distance. Guzan was equal to them all, and now the Canaleros are in for a nervy evening on Tuesday night as they wait on the final Group B & C results.

US verdict

It wasn’t pretty. Again. Again.

For the third straight match, the US were not just outplayed for large stretches, they were outhustled. Hustle has become a hallmark of US performances, but Panama turned the tables on the Americans from the outset. And with so many players unsure of both their responsibilities and positioning, Klinsmann’s men seemed to be thinking first and reacting far too little.

Klinsmann must raise his hand for the nebulous, disjointed play of his team, but his players must join him. They rarely matched Panama’s intensity and were found wanting in the air, in 50-50 challenges, and in foot races.

This defense. Oof.

After justifying his attacking selections under the guise of wanting veterans and proven commodities for this tournament, Klinsmann’s defensive selections continue to baffle. Tim Chandler turned in an even less convincing performance than he did against Honduras, and John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado continue to make the kind of mistakes that young center backs make.

The good news from Klinsmann is that his side will play a third place team in the next round. This should give the Americans another opportunity  to click before the going really does get tough in the semifinals (assuming they can make it there).

What was it supposed to look like?

With Clint Dempsey taking a well-deserved rest after saving the Americans’ collective bacon in the first two group matches, it was nearly impossible to decipher what exactly Klinsmann’s offensive plan was given the group on the field. Morales looked woefully miscast on the left side of midfield and Beckerman looked well off of peak effectiveness as the US struggled to possess the ball in midfield and was far too quick to resort to the long ball, especially without Jozy Altidore up top to challenge in the air. A paltry 73% pass completion rate in the attacking half (and only 66%  in the final third) show just how little organization and chemistry the US had going forward.

Final thoughts

It is pretty simple for the US going into the quarterfinals: Everything must be better. The defense must do a far superior job of tracking runners and maintaining positioning. The midfield organization and speed of play must increase. The forwards must get on the same page and turn half chances into real, honest-to-goodness goalscoring opportunities. The US must realize that only good fortune and Clint Dempsey have gotten them to this point.

Suddenly, recent victories over the Netherlands and Germany seem like ages ago. Given current form, Klinsmann must refocus his team and get them to buy back into the faster, sharper, more aggressive style of play that has been missing thus far at the Gold Cup.

Interestingly, tournament rules allow Klinsmann to go back to his 35-man pre-tournament roster and replace up to 6 players for the knockout rounds. With the defense in tatters, the veteran presence of Besler, Michael Orozco or DaMarcus Beasley (who agreed to come out of international retirement should he be needed) could all provide a boost. Up front the addition of college phenom Jordan Morris would certainly offer a spark to the relatively listless attacking core, Dempsey excluded. Unfortunately, he’s recovering from surgery to repair a minor stress fracture.

Whatever decisions are made, Klinsmann will find himself under the microscope throughout the rest of the tournament as fans look for appreciable gains not just from the recent slate of group stage games, but also from tournaments past.

USA
1-Brad Guzan; 21-Tim Chandler, 13-Ventura Alvarado, 6-John Brooks, 23-Fabian Johnson; 11-Alejandro Bedoya (9-Aron Johannsson ’71), 4-Michael Bradley(capt), 5-Kyle Beckerman, 7-Alfredo Morales (2-DeAndre Yedlin ’46); 18 Chris Wondolowski (8-Clint Dempsey ’46), 20-Gyasi Zardes
Subs Not Used: 12-Nick Rimando, 22-William Yarbrough, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 14-Greg Garza, 15-Tim Ream, 16-Brad Evans, 10-Mix Diskerud, 17-Jozy Altidore, 19-Graham Zusi
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

Panama
1-Jaime Penedo; 2-Valentin Pimentel (14-Miguel Camargo ’62), 3-Harold Cummings, 5-Roman Torres, 15-Erick Davis; 6-Gabriel Gomez, 11-Armando Cooper, 19-Alberto Quintero (22-Abdiel Arroyo ’86), 20-Anibal Godoy; 7-Blas Perez, 10-Luis Tejada (9-Roberto Nurse ’71)
Subs Not Used: 12-Luis Mejia, 21-Jose Calderon, 18-Darwin Pinzon, 4-Alfredo Stephens, 8-Gabriel Torres, 16-Rolando Blackburn, 23-Angel Patrick
Head Coach: Hernan Dario Gomez

Scoring Summary
PAN – Blas Perez (Luis Tejada) – 34th minute
USA – Michael Bradley (Alejandro Bedoya, Clint Dempsey) – 55th minute

Misconduct Summary
USA – John Brooks (caution-foul) – 16th minute
USA – Tim Chandler (caution-foul) – 44th minute
PAN – Anibal Godoy (caution-foul) – 45th minute
USA – Ventura Alvarado (caution-foul) – 48th minute

Stats Summary (USA /PAN)
Shots: 8 / 13
Shots on Goal: 3 / 7
Saves: 6 / 2
Corner Kicks: 2 / 4
Fouls: 15 / 20
Offside: 2 / 1

Officials
Referee: Roberto Garcia
Assistant Referee 1: Alberto Morin
Assistant Referee 2:  Leonel Leal
4th Official:  Henry Bejerano

Venue: Sporting Park; Kansas City, KS
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. CT
Attendance: 18,467 (sellout)

15 Comments

  1. What a terrible game, terrible performances, terrible officiating. I hope I never have to watch Blas Perez play another game; watching him makes you believe that maybe humans are inherently bad

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Need to question Klinsmann’s judgment in playing Brooks. Although he wanted to win, it was a meaningless game as far as the big picture was concerned. There was only one potential downside…a player in yellow card jeopardy receiving a second one. Brooks was the only such player and so shouldn’t have been allowed within a mile of the stadium. So instead of sitting out a meaningless game, he is now forced to sit out the quarterfinals. Maybe he’s not one of the best two center backs and the US is better off with someone else anyway, but now that decision is out of Klinsmann’s hands.

  3. Great One says:

    The field was much better and the atmosphere from the KC fans was excellent… And that was about it. The refereeing is continually embarrassingly bad. They aren’t even just missing here or there, it’s disgraceful. Not abnormal however.
    .
    Klinnsman continues to be the problem here. This tournament was supposed to be the “A” team, we were coming to win. Why then 3 completely different lineups, one less effective than the last? If one thing is incredibly clear, Brooks and Alvarado are not ready right now, and Chandler maybe never. They can not be the back line, period. The midfield was disjointed and Wondolowski continues to be played (though he wasn’t awful). Some version of Dempsey up top, below Altidore/Johannson, with Bedoya and Yedlin on the wings seem to work best, with Zardes and the other attacker as subs.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      My wife commented that the grass looked pretty bad during the came until I reminded her of the time Vermes was running onto the field during stoppages to fill in the divots. Field in KC has never been what I would call “good” (considering it is new than we have here). But at least it’s permanent grass rather than temporary.

    • I thought that Chandler had a horrific game. I could not see any reason that he was left out there for the second half. Beyond experimenting with some version of the lineup, I thought that it would have made more sense to bring another defender out for him. How many times did one of the central defenders wind up covering for him when he either got caught upfield or missed on a tackle/challenge?

  4. this may not be totally related but it looks like one of the players being sent home is altidore. can’t say i’m too happy about that even though he has been pretty bad so far. i’d rather he stay with the national team and maybe act as a sub than to come back to toronto and play against philly on saturday

    • Yup, not confirmed by USMNT yet but Jozy tweeted “Always a pleasure to be a part of @ussoccer all the best to the boys the rest of the way! #KeepTheCup #USMNT” so it sounds like he will be with TFC for this weekend game vs the Union.

  5. dempsey did have a good but not great game , but the best offense
    came from johannson. best all-around from bradley.
    al c.

  6. this should happen imo:

    out: Altidore, Zusi, Alvarado, Chandler

    in: Gordon, Nguyen, Besler, Beasley

    i know gordon is old but he has shown that he can still sub into games and score. zusi hasn’t shown well and i’d like to see nguyen in his place (really i’d like to see feilhaber but that isn’t possible). the other two replacements speak for themselves

  7. Thanks for the recap! It’d have been great had it not ended in a draw like that. I don’t think it was the US’s best performance though.

  8. the best thing i did was fall asleep shortly after we went down and woke during the broadcast of the home run derby. can’t believe i’m saying the Union were more fun to watch than the National Team.

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