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
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
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.
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
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
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.: