USA barges into Hexagonal lead

[USA-PANAMA] Suddenly, the USA finds daylight in the Hexagonal with Brazil 2014 in sight. The 2-0 win over Panama before 40,867 fans Tuesday night in Seattle was the USA's most comprehensive performance of the Hexagonal and gave it a two-point lead in first place at the halfway point of the final round of World Cup qualifying. More important, the cushion on fourth-place Honduras -- remember the top three Hexagonal teams are assured of qualification -- is three points with a chance to make it six points when the USA hosts the Catrachos next Tuesday in Utah.

A NEW JOZY. After going 18 months on the national team without a goal, Jozy Altidore has now scored three goals in his last three games and is -- hands down -- the most feared striker in Concacaf at the moment.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann says he understands what Altidore was going through when he wasn't scoring for the national team.

"I played my entire career his position," he says. "I was a forward for 18 years with big clubs. I know what is going through his mind. I know when he's struggling. What we demand from him when he's struggling is to remind him he has to find his way and do his job for the team. And he has been doing it."

Klinsmann singled out his performance in the games against Costa Rica and Mexico in March -- when Altidore had nothing to show for his efforts -- as well as in the qualifying wins over Jamaica and Panama when he opened the scoring.

Klinsmann says he had a talk with Earnie Stewart, technical director at Altidore's Dutch club, AZ, during U.S. Soccer's centennial celebrations before the USA-Germany game and they shared notes about Altidore's growth. Klinsmann said it's easy to forget Altidore is still young -- only 23 -- and still learning how to use his body.

"He's such a physical presence," says Klinsmann, "and he sometimes doesn't use it. He's just now starting to use it to shield the ball and do a lot of work for us."

CAMERON CAMEO IN MIDFIELD. Klinsmann has stressed being two deep at each position, and he's been getting strong performances out of players playing out of position. Against Panama, he started two outside backs, Brad Evans and DaMarcus Beasley, who are normally midfielders, the right wing, Eddie Johnson, usually plays forward, and the left wing, Fabian Johnson, has until recently played most of his career in Germany and for the USA at left back.

Then there's Geoff Cameron, who started his first game for the USA in midfield. After he struggled at right back against Belgium, Cameron -- himself a fill-in for Steve Cherundolo and Timmy Chandler -- lost his starting job to Brad Evans, but jumped back into the team when Jermaine Jones suffered a concussion in the second half of the Jamaica game.

Klinsmann said he asked Cameron to keep it simple in midfield, sitting in front of the center backs, covering for Michael Bradley and playing balls to Bradley and Clint Dempsey in front of him.

A ball from Cameron to Bradley started the sequence that ended when Fabian Johnson found Altidore all alone to score the first goal. And he showed a remarkable touch with a perfectly flighted ball over the top of the Panamanian defense to Eddie Johnson, who put the game away with a clinical finish.

"We got a huge performance from Geoff," said Klinsmann.

DISAPPOINTING CANALEROS. Panama has a recent history of giving the USA fits and came into the game unbeaten in the Hexagonal, coming off a 0-0 tie with Mexico in Panama City. But the Canaleros never seemed to trouble the USA, until the last 10 minutes when the host was pressing for a third goal.

Panama's frustrations were encapsulated midway through the first half when speedy left back Carlos Rodriguez, who had been giving Evans some trouble down, raced toward the endline only to trip on the grass installed for the game over the turf at Century Link Field and tumbled to the ground.

The loss leaves the Canaleros in danger of falling off the pace if they lose next Tuesday at Costa Rica.

SIX-POINT GAME ON TAP. The USA's three-point lead on fourth-place Honduras is the narrowest cushion it has had at the halfway point in the battle for the top three spots in the Hexagonal over the last four cycles. It led fourth-place Mexico by four points four years ago and had eight-point cushions in 2001 and 2005.

But the USA would pull away from the pack with a win over Honduras in Utah. It would open up a five-point lead over Mexico, which has already played its six games -- one win and five ties -- and is headed off to the Confederations Cup in Brazil.

More important, a U.S. win at Rio Tinto Stadium would open up a six-point lead on the Catrachos. Unless Panama upsets Costa Rica, that would mean the USA has five- and six-point leads over the third- and fourth-place teams with four games to play.

YELLOW CARD UPDATE. For a guy who had a root canal 24 hours earlier, DaMarcus Beasley had quite a game. He almost capped the evening when he charged through to take a ball from Altidore and smashed it off the post. The only down point of the evening was the yellow card Beasley received in stoppage time means he'll miss next week's game against Costa Rica.

Beasley's absence against Honduras won't be missed as much as it would have been against Panama. Fabian Johnson can slide back into left, Eddie Johnson can move from the right side to left, and Graham Zusi can return to right midfield.

Beasley is the second U.S. player to pick up his second card in five Hexagonal matches -- and just the third in this qualifying cycle.

June 11 in Seattle
USA 2 Panama 0. Goal: Altidore 36, E.Johnson 53.
USA -- Howard; Evans, Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley; Cameron, Bradley; E. Johnson (Corona 87), Dempsey, F. Johnson (Davis 87); Altidore (Holden 90+).
Panama -- Penedo, Parris, R.Torres, Baloy, Rodriguez, Cooper (Barahona 61), A.Henriquez, Sanchez, Godoy (Blackburn 61), Quintero, Tejada.
Att.: 40,847.

Hexagonal Results:
Tuesday, June 11
USA 2 Panama 0
Mexico 0 Costa Rica 0
Honduras 2 Jamaica 0

Hexagonal Standings:
10 USA 3-1-1 6/3
8 Costa Rica 2-2-1 6/4
8 Mexico 1-5-0 3/2
7 Honduras 2-1-2 6/6
6 Panama 1-3-1 5/5
2 Jamaica 0-2-4 2/8
Hexagonal Schedule:
Tuesday, June 18
USA vs. Honduras
Costa Rica vs. Panama

29 comments about "USA barges into Hexagonal lead".
  1. beautiful game, June 12, 2013 at 8:21 a.m.

    Finally, some simple effective ball control soccer with purpose and intensity.

  2. Kent James, June 12, 2013 at 8:22 a.m.

    Finally, a performance from the US that we can be proud of. I thought the US looked aggressive, creative and played as a team. Both goals were very well executed, and Beasley's late effort deserved a goal. As Taylor Twellman pointed out, Altidore is playing much better now that he has more people attacking with him, rather than being isolated up front. Cameron had a great game (c'mon JK, think about playing Cameron instead of Jones...). Evans struggled a bit with the quickness of the Panamanian left winger in the first half (who seemed exceptionally quick), but that issue disappeared in the second half (though I'm not sure why). Granted, a country the size of Panama should never give the US trouble, but history has shown that in the Hexagonal, things don't always work out as they "should". Ask Mexico...

  3. Bill Anderson, June 12, 2013 at 8:34 a.m.

    Wow, the team is playing with composure and fluidity even when pressed to play in odd positions. Who is responsible for the calm and tranquility? Klinsmann Bashers? Crickets Chirping...

  4. Walt Pericciuoli, June 12, 2013 at 8:36 a.m.

    By far the best team performance under Klinsmann. Good job boys.Except for the last few minutes in both halves, total dominance by the USA, and best of all, they played in a way that was enjoyable to watch. Finally,as an early Bradley critic, I now say he is our best player at the moment. This is his team now.He is the orchestrator, he pulls the strings.The team is so much better with him out there. At age 25, can we hope that there will be a few more coming thru the pipeline to compliment him before he is done?

  5. James Froehlich, June 12, 2013 at 9:05 a.m.

    Love it Bill A!!!!
    I've waited 30 years to see a US team play like this. Controlled passing, patience, creativity !! Like Walt P I have not been a big Michael fan but his play last night in controlling the passing game was just short of brilliance. Italy has made him a dominating intelligent presence. The only blot on the evening was Taylor Twellman. When the first words out of his mouth on Altidore's goal was on the brilliance of Dempsey's run, I wanted to reach through the screen and rip out his tonsils!! Yes! it was a good run but Fabian delivered a picture perfect pass and Altidore delivers a calm finishing touch. To take that moment to show the crowd how tactically brilliant he was is absolutely moronic!!!!

  6. Eric Shinn, June 12, 2013 at 9:23 a.m.

    Can't wait to see how Paul Gardner has to twist and turn to turn this into a

    Best US performance I've seen in a LONG time. Solid possession, some fantastic one and two touch passing, OUTSTANDING play from our forwards (including Dempsey in that)...just a great overall performance. Klinnsman deserves a TON of credit if that's the way the US is going to play from now on!

  7. Aresenal Fan, June 12, 2013 at 9:48 a.m.

    That was a very entertaining game by the USA, easily could have been 4-0. Impressive showing by Bradley and Cameron in the midfield, Cameron probably man of the match. Looked like Evans struggled a bit against quintero in the first half.

  8. Tyler Dennis, June 12, 2013 at 10:12 a.m.

    Finally and enjoyable game to watch... Keep moving forward USA!

  9. david caldwell, June 12, 2013 at 10:19 a.m.

    Excellent performance. Panama is a not a great side, but they are hard to play against, physical. Love how Bradley kept the ball until just the right moment on 1st goal. Cameron's interceptions and passing were excellent. Jozy and Clint were in synch and dangerous. F Johnson and E Johnson were really good. Lots of players involved in the attack, and also working back when needed.

  10. Power Dive, June 12, 2013 at 10:35 a.m.

    Gotta jump on board and echo the comments above. Great game USA! I can't remember a game where the USA looked this good (for all the reasons mentioned above). Seattle crowd was also fantastic. We should play more games up there.

  11. Luis Arreola, June 12, 2013 at 10:50 a.m.

    This is how a USA side should "always" play !!! Lets just make Seattle our Home game venue all the time!! LOl. Or at least for now. Bradley was a stud. That first pass to set up the goal play was nice. Altidore needs this style to be effective and active. I almost fell asleep watching Mexico vs Costa Rica but was pleasantly surprised with USA play. I thought I would have to watch more of the NBA fimals but ended up watching USA "dominate" Posession ???? Did I just say that?? Hope I get used to saying that!! No more bunkering please!!

  12. Jeanine Valadez, June 12, 2013 at 11:28 a.m.

    I also think the team plays much better when Jones is out. They not only possess better, and more effectively, but play better team defense, not relying on Jones' brutish muscle. Did you see how many times Cameron and Bradley doubled up and dispossessed defenders? That tandem was magic. Love Gonzales but he still has to remember to peek over his shoulder or keep his mark in sight. I miss Herculez Gomez' work ethic but I must admit Jozy and gang really crowded the attacking third and PA for lots of sweet combos - could have scored a couple more. It was a great game, fun to watch and showed some of the talent latent in the squad for too long.

  13. Charles Stamos, June 12, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.

    Nice win, give credit to the finishes of Altidore and Johnson, the assists of FJohnson and Cameron, and the hockey assist from Bradley. Beasley was better on defense, but Panama rarely attacked down their right wing, instead attacking Evans often who was only mildly taken advantage of. Some poor marking in the middle led to some late shots. Howard covered up for those lapses.
    Don't get too high on this win, Costa Rica and Mexico will be a better gauge of where we are. I see some improvement with this team starting to play together and that is critical for the US to improve. JK's long term vision may be starting to become apparent, solid defense and controlled possession leading to offensive pressure. Still a lot of work to be done to get to World Cup levels. Solid performances/wins in the next three games are needed.

  14. Paul Amato, June 12, 2013 at 11:51 a.m.

    I had the fortune to be at the game last night and live in Seattle. I have been to many Seattle Sounders games, but this was my first game for the USMNT. I felt the home crowd really supported our boys. I didn't watch the replay on TV, but in person, our control was the best I have seen especially in tight spaces. Our technical ability is much better. I have always been a Bradley fan and he has turned into a great player since he moved to Serie A. I did feel that the ref was a little card happy though.

  15. John Soares, June 12, 2013 at 12:20 p.m.

    Good game! Terrific atmosphere in best soccer city in America. Best decision of the day, JK inserting Eddie Johnson in midfield and/or third striker. Kept Panama on their heels. Best overall team performance in a long, long time!!!

  16. Brian Threlkeld, June 12, 2013 at 12:42 p.m.

    Mexico Hex record to date: one win and five draws. Do they think they're a Soviet grandmaster trying to qualify for the world chess championship?!

  17. Vince Leone, June 12, 2013 at 1:02 p.m.

    High marks for almost all the U.S. players. The play that led to Beasley almost scoring was the best, most creative combination I can remember seeing from the U.S., maybe ever. The only significant negative was Omar Gonzalez, once again stepping the wrong way at the wrong time and allowing a quality goal-scoring opportunity. He's barely getting away with it now--better opponents will capitalize on it.

  18. Alex G. Sicre, June 12, 2013 at 1:16 p.m.

    You're right Paul, Bradley was the conducter on the pitch. Playing in Italy has really matured him with calmness and vision and great passing, and no yellow cards like the past. Josie and Eddie, great work. Yes, the ref was card happy.

  19. John Foust, June 12, 2013 at 1:20 p.m.

    Two telling issues: Seattle (already a beautiful city and incredible soccer locale) provided the best home crowd ever! And, several instances in the second half where the defense reclaimed possession inside their own box, pretty tightly marked, and calmly passed their way upfield instead of blindly blasting the ball. The mark of a team maturing in their confidence. JK gets lots of credit!

  20. James Froehlich, June 12, 2013 at 1:47 p.m.

    Eric S -- same thought regarding PG occurred to me. It will probably be a long time before he responds -- the wounds are deep !!! How's this for the lead on his next column--- "Klinsmann Finally Follows MY Advice and Succeeds"

  21. Karl Schreiber, June 12, 2013 at 1:50 p.m.

    Just some sketchy notes, not trying to compete with more qualified analysts here:
    A big compliment to my former home town, Seattle! Wonderful support only a few days after 54000 supported the Sounders! Chanting responsibilities in Seattle should be given completely to the Seattle fan groups; the “Soundwave”, the band of the Sounders, should be included. More US MNT and WNT games should must be given to Seattle.
    A team plays as well as the opponent permits.
    The MNT displayed a better understanding between players, sometimes even touches of “total football” or creative interaction between players. What took you guys this long?! This article talks too much about “positions”. Even way back when I was coaching U 10 and up I talked about areas of primary responsibility, not rigid positions…
    I have always hoped Bradley would become a real good player. He could be on his way – what about his impressive sudden attacking moves out of his midfield “position”?!
    Fewer glitches in defense – good!
    Refereeing: Too many unnecessary yellow cards! Otherwise pretty consistent except perhaps for the penalty not given.
    There is hope that future MNT games will be enjoyable to watch.
    And – with a properly timed game, Seattle could easily support such a game with 65000, or even more.

  22. David Mont, June 12, 2013 at 2:04 p.m.

    It was the best US played under Klinsmann; however, it was Panama we played, correct? Not Argentina, France, Holland, Croatia, Belgium... Aren't we going a bit overboard?

  23. Power Dive, June 12, 2013 at 2:16 p.m.

    DM, I think yes and no. In my opinion, last night was fanstasic and is something to be majorly excited about (at least for a day after watching the game). It wasn't top competition and we're not likely to see that level of play against the teams you mentioned (or even lesser teams). However, I don't recall seeing that level of play against Antigua and Barbuda or Grenada either. Overall, seemed like a really postive step in the right direction.

  24. James Froehlich, June 12, 2013 at 2:46 p.m.

    David M -- last night the USMNT played excellent soccer. Part of their success was admittedly attributable to the level of competition. However, CONCACAF is where we live and before we move on to conquer other worlds we need to controll our own back yard. More important than the win in my mind, was how we achieved it --- we actually tried to play creative, skillful, possession soccer. It may not work as well all the time but the important thing is that the current player pool has shown that they can play entertaining soccer and win while doing so. The trick will be to keep it up and against stronger opposition. BTW David -- it's awfully easy to be negative because eventually you're always right, cause that's the way life it is. Unfortunately you miss out on a lot of fun along the way!!!

  25. beautiful game, June 12, 2013 at 3:47 p.m.

    Dave M, you're right that Panama isn't a heavyweight, but it sure was a better performance than usual.

  26. Kent James, June 12, 2013 at 6:07 p.m.

    David, of course you're right. We shouldn't go overboard (since by definition, going overboard would be excessive, not just appropriate, celebration). On the other hand, it was nice to see a major step in the right direction. A few more steps like that and we're on our way...

  27. Chris Sapien , June 12, 2013 at 7:41 p.m.

    Wow, even with this jump into clarity away from the likes of CR and South of the unprotected boarder, people still want to unqualify a WC implicated match. Panama, just like all nations, want to achieve Brazil '14 just like we do. Any nation can field a team worthy of appreciation and given the right circumstances overcome any long odds to rise to the occassion. Smart teams never underestimate their opponents, and the US is finally starting to show they are willing to go for the throat!! Come you guys, we don't need to beat the Spains and Germanys every year to shut that argument down do we?? Can't wait to get home from Jamaica and watch us gain another three points this coming Tuesday!!!! USA, USA, USA, USA....

  28. soccer talk, June 13, 2013 at 12:11 a.m.

    Great game Jozy is rising up to the task with
    Some much needed help up top. Fantastic job
    Of Cameron redeeming himself. All unity, great
    Team play, fluid transitional possessions. PG will
    Have to search hard for some negative fluff for
    This match. I'm sure he will find it somewhere
    Next time there is a stumble. Nice. To see the
    Tri in the rear looking up at us in the standings
    In grumbling disarray. Not the standard measuring. Stick as they were at the onset. Trudge on USA , keep this blueprint.

  29. beautiful game, June 13, 2013 at 4:52 p.m.

    Bloggers need to have an open mind when it comes to Altidore et al. Without service, he's toast; so are the better quality strikers.

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