USMNT: Few Positives in Win over Panama

January 27, 2012

Wednesday night, the United States Men’s National Team took on Panama in the second of two January friendlies. Despite the 1-0 win, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side looked sluggish and disorganized for most of the night and were fairly lucky to escape Panama with a win.

The backline looked disorganized all night

The center back tandem of Michael Parkhurst and Geoff Cameron, who had looked very solid and composed against Venezuela, was pulled apart all night.

Seemingly unable to recognize simple diagonal runs in behind, and with a midfield that failed to put enough pressure on Panama to prevent good thru balls, both center backs found themselves chasing the Panamanians as they raced towards the U.S. goal on multiple occasions.

Luckily for the U.S., the Panamanians proved inept at finishing their chances.

In the second half, Geoff Cameron was sent off after taking down Panamanian attacker Blas Perez, who was on a breakaway.

If Brek Shea can’t produce, is he really the future?

In his nine matches in charge, Jurgen Klinsmann has played Shea in every match, including seven starts. While there have been moments of brilliance from Shea, most notably his superb endline run against Mexico to set-up the tying goal, his numbers, in terms of production, are hardly impressive.

Shea’s haul from seven starts and two sub appearances is a grand total of zero goals and one assist.

Do any of these guys deserve another call-up?

There were few, if any, standout performances against Panama. The backline was in constant disarray, the midfield struggled to connect passes and generate any sort of consistent attack and the forwards were listless, at best.

The worst of it? The U.S. was playing against a team comprised of many of Panama’s U-23 players.

Klinsmann will likely use this game as an excuse to revert to his beloved 4-3-3

The U.S.’s goal scoring haul in a 4-4-2, used in two of Klinsmann’s nine games in charge (including a few minutes of the Venezuela game) is five goals. Meanwhile, under Klinsmann’s preferred 4-3-3, used in all other seven games, the U.S. has scored two goals.

The lack of fluidity and possession exhibited on Wednesday may convince Klinsmann to go back to a 4-3-3, but hopefully he will realize that with a U.S. team at full strength, a version of the 4-4-2 is still the best option.

U.S. fans should keep an eye of C.J. Sapong

Although he only got limited minutes in both friendlies, C.J. Sapong looked considerably better than fellow Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury in both games.

Coming on in the last 15 minutes, as he had in the Venezuela game, Sapong battled well in the air and, more importantly, held possession up top allowing the U.S. midfield to get up the field. While his play was nothing spectacular, its simplicity was something the U.S. had been missing for most of the night.

With far too many declarations of “the next big thing”, it is far, far too early to declare anything like that for Sapong. However, following a solid MLS season, it would not be a surprise if his game continues to grow and he makes more appearances for the USMNT in the future.

Can Michael Parkhurst be used to provide the U.S. with some depth at outside back?

Michael Parkhurst has enjoyed several outstanding season in Europe following a number of years as one of the best defenders in MLS. On Wednesday night, however, he proved that a 5’ 10” center back can be a big liability. During the game several balls went over him that a player like Carlos Bocanegra of Oguchi Onyewu would have had for sure.

That being said, with the exception of Steve Cherundolo, the USMNT has had notoriously inconsistent play from its outside backs. Parkhurst’s possession, savy and experience should be enough to make him a solid backup for an aging Cherundolo or an up-and-coming Timothy Chandler.

John D. Halloran

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One Response to USMNT: Few Positives in Win over Panama

  1. Dupuis on January 27, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Amen brother.
    When attacking midfielders can get their heads up at will its just going to be trouble.
    The stronger the centerbacks, the less critical wingbacks are as super defenders. With a good holding midfielder (I’m thinking Bradley) the effect is even more pronounced.
    Its too bad there is no American centerback playing at a very high level every week against the best strikers in the world, and playing well, to partner Gooch. Wait, there is such a player, and in fact he’s even better than Gooch (sorry Gooch) – the bad news, JK doesn’t seem to have his phone number.
    And until Holden gets well, we only have one (maybe two) guys who can really be playmaker – I’m thinking Torres, he’s back and playing well – maybe Torres and Whitbread share a phone number.
    And if a midfielder is wanted to make runs from deep and add quality and punch to our offense Shea is NOT it, Gatt however is. (I’m thinking Deuce and Donovan will be needed as forwards since who else do we have?)
    On the bright side, we do have a whole bunch of kick ass keepers!
    Sapong is a superior athlete, he does not however ooze quality, he does bring it though, which the team desperately needed these last two games.
    Bunbury didn’t look like he wanted to be there, I think he knew something JK didn’t.
    I’m starting to wonder if PL was right about JK. So far, impressed is not a word I would use. If there is even a hint of a plan, I’m missing it. It looks like endless tryouts of guys who are mostly a couple of leagues away from international soccer.

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