U.S. Report Card: Dominant performances abound as USA throttles Panama

By Ridge Mahoney

In its 2-0 win over Panama on Tuesday, its most convincing effort in the Hexagonal so far, the USA got stellar performances on the backline, in midfield and upfront.

6 TIM HOWARD (Everton/ENG) 89/0. He didn’t have much to do until Rolando Blackburn broke through in stoppage time, and Howard repelled that attempt with a perfectly timed sliding block. He labored to reach one cross and punched it down but it bounced well clear of the penalty area. Other crosses he handled easily and none of Panama’s set plays caused much concern.

5 BRAD EVANS (Seattle Sounders FC) 11/1. Alberto Quintero exposed him a couple of times early in the match and occasionally thereafter he came up short when substitute Nelson Barahona floated into his area, but usually he and his teammates blotted out the danger. Whether because of the bumpy surface or fatigue – he played the full 90 minutes for the third time in 10 days – his play wasn’t always crisp but his diligent effort got him through the game.

8 MATT BESLER (Sporting Kansas City) 10/0. In addition to solid tackling and heady interventions, he delivered numerous quality balls up the left channel for several different teammates to collect. His shorter passes out of the back to the midfielders were consistently sharp. He helped keep Luis Tejada relatively quiet by beating him to the ball and rendered Anibal Godoy, who was substituted near the hour mark, invisible.

6 OMAR GONZALEZ (Los Angeles Galaxy) 6/0. Panama’s best chance in the final minutes arose when Blackburn snuck into his blind spot and he occasionally mis-timed his step to the ball, but there were plenty of strong tackles, especially one in the 36th minute at the edge of the box. He took up good positions at the near post and turned away several low crosses, and once defused a cross by heading it off an opponent and out for a goal kick.

7 DaMARCUS BEASLEY (Puebla/MEX) 103/17. The Beas had a few shaky moments when the Panama subs attacked his zone, but for the most part his positioning and decision-making were spot-on. He got forward effectively: in the opening minutes he hit a good cross, late in the first half he played a ball to Jozy Altidore that created a chance, and the final minutes he raced into the penalty area to smack a shot off the goalpost.

8 GEOFF CAMERON (Stoke City/ENG). 17/0. Deputizing for the concussed Jermaine Jones, he brought his own blend of toughness and savvy to the central midfield slot he used to play (in college and early in his pro career for Houston Dynamo). With a solid tackle, he won a ball and slipped it to Michael Bradley to set in motion the first U.S. scoring sequence. He lofted a great ball into space for Eddie Johnson to knock home the clincher. His few giveaways weren’t costly.

8 MICHAEL BRADLEY (Roma/ITA) 78/11. He probably shaded a few teammates as Man of the Match. His storming run through midfield and ball to Fabian Johnson on the first goal smacked of top-class yet throughout the match his presence predominated. He started the game by dropping deep to collect the ball near the U.S. center backs, which unhinged the Panama midfield and made space for the wide mids and Clint Dempsey, who inadvertently blocked his goal-bound shot. He moved front to back and side to side to feed the attack, and his workrate and tackling neutralized Panama’s central mids.

6 EDDIE JOHNSON (Seattle Sounders FC) 52/14. In place of Graham Zusi, Johnson played a very different yet effective game at right mid after a so-so start. Defensively he seemed a bit lost, and he botched a couple of early crosses, including a real howler in the 34th minute. He settled down when the U.S. scored a few minutes later. He started the second half by hitting good passes, and then timed his run perfectly to collect Cameron’s long ball and belt a shot inside the far post.

8 FABIAN JOHNSON (Hoffenheim/GER) 14/0. He started confidently knifing into the penalty area to fire a shot over the bar, and a few minutes later took another shot that was blocked. Panama simply couldn’t contain his linking balls to teammates and intelligent runs. He broke down the wing to meet Bradley’s pass and serve a perfect back-post ball that Altidore tucked home for the first goal. He also put in a lot of valuable defensive work in conjunction with Beasley and his central midfield partners.

7 CLINT DEMPSEY (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG) 98/35. His near-post run that drew defenders as Johnson crossed to Jozy Altidore to score was seen by all but did you notice his run through midfield that opened up a lane for Bradley? He floated from side to side to work combinations on the flanks, or sometimes stayed high as Altidore went wide. He nearly scored on the rebound of saved shot but instead his first-time shot off a bounce hit the crossbar. Recognized by Panama as the danger man, he absorbed several cynical fouls and kept on ticking while reminding the referee of proceedings.

7 JOZY ALTIDORE (AZ/NED) 59/16. Shortly after being denied a penalty kick when he surged between two opponents, Altidore angled to the back post and put away Fabian Johnson’s impeccable cross. His relentless and consistent work on and off the ball wore away at the Panamanian defense. He forced a good save out of keeper Jaime Penedo and a saving tackle by centerback Roman Torres, and clipped a nice ball that Dempsey would have headed home if not for another desperation clearance.

NR BRAD DAVIS (Houston Dynamo) 10/0.  Got a few minutes but little the ball in relief of Fabian Johnson.

NR JOE CORONA (Club Tijuana/MEX)) 4/0. Made his first appearance of the year.

NR STUART HOLDEN (Bolton/ENG) 18/2. Another milestone in his long road back.

(Ratings: 1=low; 5=average; 10=high.)

11 comments about "U.S. Report Card: Dominant performances abound as USA throttles Panama".
  1. Mike in SoCal, June 12, 2013 at 3:32 p.m.

    Perfectly played assist to Jozy for Fabian Johnson but he got increasingly lost as the game wore on. Had a good game and don't want to single him out because he certainly didn't play poorly but Fabian didn't merit an 8.

    DeMarcus played well at left back and Evans was shaky at times but no glaring mistakes from either of our wide backs, Klinsy probably wants the most offensive-minded players there while still being adequate defensively, I think he's found something although I don't know if playing Evans and Beasley would work against higher-quality attacking teams.

    Also don't see how Gonzalez could earn a 6 while Besler rated an 8 and even also merit a comment about his passing out of the backfield. Omar's passing was as sharp and almost led to a couple scoring chances especially early on when he found guys upfield.

    That's just nitpicking on my part after another quality performance if slightly less than dominating. Now if we can close out with another win at Salt Lake City and we will have essentially punched our ticket to Brazil.

    BTW, awesome crowd in Seattle, you guys did yourselves proud. Hate to bring up the oh-so touchy subject but get yourselves a real grass pitch and you shown that you should be regulars on the USMNT home circuit from now on.

  2. beautiful game, June 12, 2013 at 3:39 p.m.

    Solid team performance; as usual ratings are overboard. About time confidence set in and the play was simple and efficient.

  3. Ben Tulchin, June 12, 2013 at 4:19 p.m.

    Overall a strong team performance, so hard to quibble too much with the ratings. However, I felt Jozy was spectacular and he scored a goal so deserves at least an 8, while I felt Clint was off his game a bit so more like a 6 or 7. Agree re Fabian not deserving an 8 - he wasn't that stellar. And Omar and Besler were comparable, though Omar had that one mistake at the end so that should put him down a notch. Eddie scored a great goal with a terrific 1st touch, so deserves a 7, I think. Still, excellent team performance - and the coach deserves an 8 (why doesn't SA rate the coach?).

  4. Vince Leone, June 12, 2013 at 4:38 p.m.

    I say start Cameron against Honduras and give him a real chance to earn the D-mid spot over Jones. You know that Jones's propensity to commit stupid fouls is going to hurt us sometime. Plus, having Cameron in the 23 would provide depth at center-back as well.

  5. Vince Leone, June 12, 2013 at 4:42 p.m.

    I am not yet convinced that Omar Gonzalez's brain can keep up with world-class forwards, which he hasn't yet faced. He makes positional mistakes every game. Besler does not make these mistakes.

  6. Bruce Gowan, June 12, 2013 at 5:20 p.m.

    Back line is still not world class. Outside backs, Evans and Beasley got beat to many times breaking up defensive shape.Against a better team that will give up goals. I change my opinion on Bradley. He is now the most valuable player on the team. Seattle supports soccer very well but they need a grass field to be first class.

  7. Jeff Gingold, June 12, 2013 at 6:12 p.m.

    I was at the match and was very impressed with Altidore's work rate and tenacity. He not only represented a scoring threat throughout the evening, but he consistently came back fast and hard on defense. I would be surprised if he didn't cover more ground than any other player, and the quality of his play was very good. I would give him an 8.5 on the match. He deserved "man of the match."

  8. Kevin Sims, June 12, 2013 at 6:13 p.m.

    Good match ... yet feel ratings are bit inflated and overlook legitimate quality in face of good result ... embarrassing that USA hosts a match on a treacherous surface ... had no impact, but certainly might have!

  9. Jeff Gingold, June 12, 2013 at 6:17 p.m.

    one other comment . . . it occurred only 4 or 5 times during the match but the Klinsmann style of surgical quick, creative attacking was quite impressive. If they can sustain that style of speedy ball movement in the box and apply it more consistently, USMNT can be a credible force beyond qualification.

  10. Kent James, June 13, 2013 at 1:42 a.m.

    Johnson deserved at least a 7 (his goal was beautiful, and he caused a lot of problems on the flank). Jozy and E Johnson had bigger impacts than Dempsey, so either they should get higher ratings or he should be lower. They scored the goals (and they weren't flukes). Besler was better than Gonzalez, but only 1 point better, not two. Cameron and Bradley did dominate the midfield, so I guess 8's are warranted. Seattle fans get a 10 (but they need to get a permanent grass field!). SA should rate the coach, and in this case, JK gets an 8 (moving Cameron and EJ to midfield worked out brilliantly).

  11. Mike in SoCal, June 13, 2013 at 5:32 p.m.

    I would say the fact that Geoff Cameron's performance flying under the radar is a good thing. There were a lot of doubters about playing him in midfield and he did well.

    This team has a few players playing out of their normal positions and they are largely excelling. That speaks to the vision of Klinsy and his skill of evaluating player abilities.

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