Three takeaways from USA-Panama

By Paul Kennedy

The USA ended its five-game winless streak, beating Panama, 2-0, before a crowd of 20,271 fans at StubHub Center to end a four-week January camp. Michael Bradley scored a rare Olimpico and Clint Dempsey scored his 40th international goal to break open a scoreless match late in the first half.

Here are three takeaways from the second U.S. win in seven games of the post-2014 World Cup era:

1. Zardes impresses in first start.

If expanding the player pool is a priority early in a new World Cup cycle, January camp will have been deemed a success. Gyasi Zardes and Miguel Ibarra got their first starts for the USA against Panama, both playing out well in roles out wide, where it needs help. Zardes, in particular, displayed the variety in his game that makes him so valuable for the LA Galaxy, showing off his ability to make something happen in open spaces as he did when he set up Dempsey for the second goal.

Zardes and Ibarra are among 10 players who have gotten their first caps since the USA resumed play last September following the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Zardes, Ibarra and Greg Garza, who started his first game for the USA at left back against the Czech Republic in September, all should feel comfortable about getting callups when the full squad is available later in the spring.

Steve Birnbaum, Will Trapp, Matt Hedges and Perry Kitchen made their debuts in the winter friendlies, while Emerson Hyndman, Rubio Rubin and Jordan Morris all earned their first caps in the fall.

One of the decisions Klinsmann will have to make is what to do with his younger players, keeping them on the senior team or sending them down to the U-20s and U-23s. The toughest decision will probably be Rubin, who is starting at AZ in the Netherlands and therefore missed U-20 qualifying. The smart decision is to keep him with the U-20s, whom he can help a lot. There is no point bringing him into the senior team if he sits behind Dempsey.

2. U.S. fortunes will ride on play of the big three.

In the short term, the national team's fortunes will rise or fall on the big three: Bradley, Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. All three made big contributions in the win over Panama: Bradley and Dempsey with goals and Altidore with his presence. Dempsey, the captain, had a much better game after having little impact in the 3-2 loss to Chile 10 days earlier.

All three are now back in MLS, so they'll answer soon enough whether Jurgen Klinsmann's concerns about their leaving Europe were justified. He'll want them to prove him wrong because he needs them to get the national team through the next nine months, leading into the start of 2018 World Cup qualifying in November.

3. The hard part begins ...

Panama was a game the USA had to win. The Canaleros, let down by LA Galaxy keeper Jaime Penedo on the first goal, never seriously challenged the USA after they fell behind. For a change, the USA rode out a lead it took into the second half. It had led against Ecuador, Honduras, Colombia and Chile at the break but ended up losing or tying all four games. A 1-1 tie with Ireland at the half ended up being a 4-1 defeat.

There are no easy games currently scheduled between now and the Gold Cup in July: at Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany during FIFA fixture windows and Mexico in San Antonio in April.

We'll have a better sense of how far along the USA is in Klinsmann's second term by the end of June. The goal in 2015 will be to qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup, either by winning this summer's Gold Cup or the playoff that will take place in the fall if it doesn't defend its Concacaf title.

TRIVIA. The USA is now 12-1-2 in 15 games against Panama. It's won its last six meetings after its only defeat, a 2-1 loss to the Canaleros in group play at the 2011 Gold Cup.

Feb. 8 in Carson, Calif.
USA 2 Panama 0. Goals: Bradley 27, Dempsey 37.
USA -- Rimando (S.Johnson 46), Yedlin (Hedges 72), Jones, Besler, Shea; Bradley, Diskerud (Kitchen 72); Zardes, Dempsey (Gil 81), Ibarra (Nguyen 79); Altidore (Wondolowski 46).
Panama -- Penedo, Parris, Cummins, Escobar (Hormechea 46), Ovalle (Murillo 46), Stephens (Diaz 55), Godoy, Sanchez (Yau 46), Davis, Perez (Buitrago 55), Blackburn.
Att.: 20,271.
22 comments about "Three takeaways from USA-Panama".
  1. James Madison, February 8, 2015 at 7:45 p.m.

    Bradley and Jermaine Jones, for two, looked far more effective than against the stronger Chile. Shea looked more comfortable in the back than the midfield, and Yedlin is a work in progress.

  2. John Bamford, February 8, 2015 at 7:48 p.m.

    A few other take-aways:
    1. Altidore is not good enough to be one of the "big three." If he is, US soccer is in trouble.
    2. Bradley looks sharp again. This is a very good thing.
    3. Jones is not a CB. He tries to beat players off the dribble (as a CB) and tries one-two's out of the back. Entirely inappropriate for a CB.
    4. Wondolowski is embarrassingly bad and should never represent the USMNT again. Did you see that whiff he had on the Brek Shea cross? Cringe. Never again.

  3. John Dejulio, February 8, 2015 at 7:49 p.m.

    It has become almost ridiculous that we consider Altidore a top player or in this case, one of our "big three" because of his presence?! What presence? He lacks the basic skills to receive a ball under pressure, almost always loses the ball and can't score...?! Wow- he was shipped out of Europe because he's not good enough.

  4. Bob Taco, February 8, 2015 at 7:55 p.m.

    Where is Edgar?

  5. William Wang, February 8, 2015 at 8:32 p.m.

    Dempsey sure looked offside to me on his goal. I guess it's the kind of call (or rather no-call) that goes your way at home.

  6. Frans Vischer, February 8, 2015 at 8:44 p.m.

    The first 10 minutes were embarrassing- terrible passing, poor movement. Bradley looked awful. Yedlin was terrible the entire game. Thankfully he got his act together. Zardes is for real. Hedges might develop into a dependable right back. Agreed on Wondo- I love his attitude and workrate, but he just doesn't have the skills for international play.

  7. Frans Vischer, February 8, 2015 at 8:45 p.m.

    Correction, I meant Bradley got his act together.

  8. Edgar Aldana, February 8, 2015 at 9:05 p.m.

    I'm right here Bob, what was your point?

  9. Joe Linzner, February 8, 2015 at 9:16 p.m.

    Altidore has gotten chance after chance, so his contribution is measurable, there is no way that Wondo is any worse than Altidore.....for me Altidore is an anchor. He get's lucky at times and even then his success rate is sketchy. The team as a whole is not sharp but that must be expected since they rarely play together. This is the purpose of friendlies. See who has the ability to contribute and weed out the wannabes... They have not played soccer due to seasonal breaks so we need to give them a break, as well as the coaches. To constantly whine about the whole thing is not cool. At least in my opinion.

  10. Tim Gibson, February 9, 2015 at 7:12 a.m.

    Wondo can't hold the ball when in deep/alone like Jozy can & does not share his physical strength either. Yes, Jozy looks rusty now, but when his confidence in "on", so will his game. Wondo?....fanned again.

  11. Kent James, February 9, 2015 at 9:12 a.m.

    While I don't understand JK's continued use of Wondo (since his age would disqualify him for the next WC), his "whiff" was not his fault; the defender nicked it just before it got to him, and he did not have time to correct (unlike the Panamanian player who really whiffed after Besler's slip up). In real time, that sequence made Wondo look inept, but in replay, both Shea's pass and Wondo's second effort cross were partially blocked by Panamanian defenders. I like Wondo, but don't really see him having a role on the USMNT at this point. The only reason I can think of that would justify his inclusion is for a back-up for Altidore during the Gold Cup.

  12. Gus Keri, February 9, 2015 at 11:22 a.m.

    Dempsey's goal was not offside and I checked it on slow motion.

  13. Santiago 1314, February 9, 2015 at 11:50 a.m.

    @ John B.. Jones at CB??? Can we really call 3rd Back in 3, a Center Back???...Shouldn't that be Sweeper//Libero!?!?...I believe there was some German Guy(Beck-something or another) that loved to play Wall passes out of the back... Sure would love to see our German Coach, Bring that Style Back..."What's Old, Is New"

  14. Chris Sapien , February 9, 2015 at 12:52 p.m.

    Dempsey was definitely "On", and if any part was behind the 2nd to last, it was his hand! Just like E Johnson vs mex last April......Jozy raises our aerial capability where no one else at this point does. That's why he remains as a "big three", like it or not.

  15. Gunther Charles, February 9, 2015 at 1:16 p.m.

    I finally get to see more comments on Altidore. I've said for a long time the guy is out of shape, does not want to get in shape but thinks he is good enough to belong to the National Team. Are we saying here that we don't have a true striker? Take a defender and make a striker it's about the same as Altidore at least there would be some hope. I just don't see what JK sees in him.

  16. David Sirias, February 9, 2015 at 1:45 p.m.

    Altidore is not a benchmark player. He's still got donkey touch and is effective only wide and frankly Zardes is better wide now and probably as a true Number 9 soon once Zardes becomes a better finisher. He clearly has much better movement off the ball. Bradley looks better. Hopefully he is healed and will get full confidence back. He IS important to the NATS. Dempsey is still a good second striker. ( he's unacceptable as a midfielder ) But his age, work rate and tendency to fall down will do him in by 2016 . Enjoy him now. He won't be a factor in the big 2016 tournament

  17. Dan Phillips, February 9, 2015 at 2 p.m.

    Brek Shea looked great.

  18. Joe Linzner, February 9, 2015 at 4:42 p.m.

    No one can hold the ball up??? JA loses half the passes at first touch and those he gets and loses after the touch. He keeps and holds less than 20% and his outlet passes are iffy so consistently, I cannot understand his starts. Sorry I have lost all respect for him as a forward.

  19. Gus Keri, February 9, 2015 at 8:16 p.m.

    Jones and Beckenbauer are alike? Give me a break Santiago. apparently you haven't seen Beckenbauer playing.

  20. Bob Taco, February 10, 2015 at 6:47 p.m.

    Edgar dont worry I have been scouring the globe for the next usa coach. No worries only looking in Latin and SouthAmerica. Also Edgar do you believe two real MLS playing Americans coached in MLS by Americans scored.

  21. Edgar Aldana, February 10, 2015 at 11:34 p.m.

    Bob Taco, you're amazing hope all that work you're doing keeps you away from writing stupid things and teaches you something about the game.

  22. Rick Estupinan, February 11, 2015 at 2:38 p.m.

    The names Beckembawer and J.jones can never be put together,or be compared.One was a famous outstanding player,the other an inept,clumsy mediocre player.

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