United States vs. Panama
As the U.S. seemed to have bounced back from their loss to Spain with a 2-0 win to start the Gold Cup, they now have suffered a major setback. The U.S. lost 2-1 to an inferior Panama side and only has themselves to blame. The team came out flat from the start and the defense that looked so good against Canada disappeared. Panama was able to pass through the midfield and defense and had some great opportunities before eventually scoring in the 19th minute and later in the half on a penalty. Clarence Goodson and Tim Ream failed to work together in the central of defense and Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones dropped deep into their own half, failing to control the midfield.
Clint Dempsey brought great intensity to the game and was very creative on the ball creating a few chances for the U.S. attack. Landon Donovan as well brought great energy and was dangerous at times, more so in the second half. However, what hurt the U.S. against Canada hurt them again today, the lack of a true winger. The U.S. is struggling to maintain width to stretch the defense as Donovan and Dempsey continue to come inside and attack the goal, which is their specialty. This would work if the outside backs Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo would get into the attack. Cherundolo made a number of runs during the game, but not enough and Bocanegra was nowhere to be seen in the attack. It was only when the U.S. brought on Alejandro Bedoya did the U.S. seem to gather a more balanced and wide attack.
The forward play for the U.S. continues to be a problem of great concern. Jozy Altidore and Juan Agudelo were ineffective, not causing many problems for the Panamanian defense. When Dempsey went up top though, the attack began to cause Panama some major problems as the U.S. attempted to get back into the game, but coming up a goal short. Dempsey played his normal position for his club Fulham when he went up top and that seemed to be where he fit the U.S. attack best. Wondolowski came on and brought some energy, but showed that scoring in MLS is not the same as on the international stage, missing a gimmie from 4 yards out at the end of the game.
Things to take away: this game hopefully will be another wake-up call for the U.S. While this loss was embarrassing and is a minor setback in the development of U.S. soccer, the U.S. can still go on to win the Gold Cup, but will have to make some changes to do so. The U.S. needs to sort-out their problems in the back and in the midfield. They have not dominated the midfield despite that being the area on the field where they are strongest. Maybe adding a natural winger into the fold will help bring the team some much needed width. The U.S. is also in need of some dire creativity and should look to add a player like Maurice Edu and dare I say it, Freddy Adu into the fold. The forward play needs to be much much better and should look to start Dempsey up top where he seems to be best for the U.S. and his club. The U.S. have much work to do before their encounter with a tricky Guadeloupe and hopefully Bob Bradley will make the necessary changes to lead the U.S. to a strong end to group play.