The US Men’s National Team beat Panama by a score of 2-0 at the StubHub Center on Sunday.
The result comes after a winless run of five games, spanning four months since the team’s 1-1 draw to Ecuador, and takes a bit of weight off Jürgen Klinsmann’s burdened shoulders.
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Klinsmann’s lineup was changed significantly in the wake of the 2-3 loss to Chile, seeing the side move back to a defensive line of four players, and giving LA Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes his first start for the USMNT.
Ex-Sounders fullback DeAndre Yedlin made an unimpressive start to the game, giving away a corner to Panama under no pressure thanks to a poorly-weighted pass back to starting goalkeeper Nick Rimando that the American shot-stopper couldn’t control.
It wasn’t all bad for the Americans early on, though. Orlando City SC’s Brek Shea looked bright, and was making a few good off-the ball runs, and contributed well in the defense to stop some Panamanian scoring chances.
With twenty minutes on the clock, neither side had really taken the game by the scruff of the neck, and everything seemed stop-and-go with nobody managing to create any huge scoring chances on either end. The US defense looked at risk on occasion, largely due to sloppy play from Yedlin.
However, with 27 minutes on the clock, USA and Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley scored directly from a corner, an Olimpico, if you will, and sent the USA 1-0 up just before the half-hour mark. The US seemed to build in confidence thanks to the goal, and immediately looked better in their build-up and pressing play.Sep 5, 2014; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes (11) against the Colorado Rapids at StubHub Center. The Galaxy defeated the Rapids 6-0. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
On the back of their new-found confidence, the US strode forward once more in the 37th minute, and a brilliant ball from Gyasi Zardes sent Clint Dempsey through one-on-one with Panama’s goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. Captain America rounded the LA Galaxy keeper and managed to bundle the ball into the back of the net for his 40th USMNT goal before the defense could recover to catch him.
For the rest of the first half, Panama tried to get into dangerous situations, but their only clear-cut opportunity came from a Nick Rimando mistake that saw Blas Pérez collect the ball unopposed in the US area, however his effort was so ridiculously poor that it seemed almost comical.
When the second half kicked off, with Chicago’s Sean Johnson replacing Rimando in goal and San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski giving Jozy Altidore a rest, the US looked very sharp. Several chances came and went without forcing a third goal, most notably a scramble in the box following a dangerous Michael Bradley cross.
Something that anyone could see in the early stages of the half was that the USMNT was pressing uncharacteristically high, pinning Panama back in their own half. The Panamanians struggled to break on counters, and Johnson was relatively untroubled for most of his time on the pitch.Jun 22, 2014; Manaus, Amazonas, BRAZIL; United States midfielder Michael Bradley (4) controls the ball against Portugal during their 2014 World Cup game at Arena Amazonia. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Two more big chances would come in the second half, the first through a Jermaine Jones header from close range that went straight at the keeper, and the second being rounded off by a miserable effort from Wondolowski, who managed to whiff the ball on his first ‘shot’ and then place it terribly on his second attempt.
Other than DeAndre Yedlin hobbling off in the 70th minute, the rest of the second half passed with not much excitement, and the USA cruised calmly to their first win of 2015.
Next up the US will travel to Europe for a friendly with Denmark on March 24th.