USA-Panama Takeaways: Proactive approach again absent

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is big on stressing that his players take a proactive approach, but they've been anything but proactive so far at the Gold Cup, where they've been outshot 50-20 after three games.

For the third straight game, the USA came out on its back foot, but for the first time at the Gold Cup trailed, 1-0.  A lackluster first half was followed by a more concerted effort, and the USA was rewarded with a 1-1 tie against Panama, which needed to win to assure passage to the quarterfinals.

Here are three takeaways after the USA-Panama game that closed out Group A Monday night in steamy Kansas City.

1. Same woes leave question marks before knockout phase.

Jurgen Klinsmann wanted to quickly move on to the quarterfinals -- "Now, it’s really getting to the serious stuff," he said on Monday night -- after he witnessed the USA struggle badly in the first half against Panama. He put out his third different lineup in three games, but he can't escape the fact that whatever he has tried the USA has never looked comfortable since the tournament started.

USA-Panama: U.S. Players Ratings

A failure to click up front, sloppy passing and poor positional marking were again evident as the USA fell behind the Canaleros in the 33rd minute on a goal by Blas Perez that exploited the central defensive pairing of Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks.

In the three games, the USA has been outshot by a combined 50-20 margin. It was 16-6 against Honduras and 21-6 against Haiti. Panama only outshot the USA, 13-8, but the Canaleros did a better job than the USA's other Group A opponents of putting their shots on target as they forced Brad Guzan into seven saves.

2. Thank goodness for Clint Dempsey.

Well, it's a good thing MLS commissioner Don Garber didn't throw the book at Clint Dempsey after he tore up the notebook of referee Daniel Radford and got thrown out of the Seattle Sounders' Open Cup match against Portland. Dempsey would still be serving his suspension if Garber had found him guilty of referee assault and not referee abuse that resulted in only a three-game ban.

All Dempsey has done at the Gold Cup is score all the goals in the 2-1 win over Honduras and 1-0 win over Haiti and come off the bench against Panama and spark the U.S. comeback with the hustle play that kept the ball alive for him to find Alejandro Bedoya, whose pass set up Michael Bradley for the equalizer. It was like the USA of old, getting mediocre performances but escaping thanks to Dempsey.

Gold Cup: Haiti advances with upset win

Dempsey's return -- he had not played for the USA in almost five months before the July 3 friendly against Guatemala -- is now even more important because Jozy Altidore is mired in a funk and didn't even play on Monday night. Klinsmann tried Gyasi Zardes as the target man in Altidore's place but that move didn't work. After the break, Klinsmann brought on Dempsey for Chris Wondolowski and the combination of Dempsey and Zardes looked much better.

3. Klinsmann's replacement options are limited.

Klinsmann is expected to announce any changes to his roster for the knockout stage on Tuesday. It is not like he has many exciting options from his reserve list of 12 players. Jordan Morris would have been a likely replacement for Wondolowski, but he recently had surgery for a stress fracture and is on the mend. Morris' ability to combine up front -- along with his evident talismanic qualities -- would have been a welcome addition.

A longshot move would be to recall DaMarcus Beasley to play at left back and move Fabian Johnson over to the right back in place of Timmy Chandler, but that would be viewed a signal of panic. A more likely move would be to recall Matt Besler as cover with Brooks, who is suspended for Saturday's quarterfinal match. The U.S. situation isn't that dire as the other powerhouses in the tournament haven't exactly been tearing it up either. Of the other three 2014 World Cup finalists, Mexico has a win against Cuba, the worst team at the tournament, and a scoreless tie against 10-man Guatemala, Costa Rica has two ties and must face Canada Tuesday in Toronto, and Honduras is out without winning a game.

For Saturday's quarterfinal match, Klinsmann will likely stick with the team that started the second half on Monday night with the exception of Brooks, who'll likely be replaced by Omar Gonzalez. Alvarado and Gonzalez teamed up to shut out Mexico, 2-0, in April, so they've played together.

July 13 in Kansas City, Kansas
USA 1 Panama 1. Goals: Bradley 54; Perez 33.
USA --
Guzan; Chandler, Alvarado, Brooks, Johnson; Bedoya (Johannsson, 70), Bradley, Beckerman, Morales (Yedlin, 46); Zardes, Wondolowski (Dempsey, 46).
Panama -- Penedo, Pimentel (Camargo, 61), R.Torres, Cummings, Davis; Cooper, Gomez, Godoy, Quintero (Arroyo, 85); Perez, Tejada (Nurse 70).
Yellow Cards: USA -- Brooks 15, Chandler 43, Alvarado 47; Panama -- Godoy 44.
Roberto Garcia (Mexico).

21 comments about "USA-Panama Takeaways: Proactive approach again absent".
  1. Lonaka K, July 14, 2015 at 7:25 a.m.

    US Soccer listen to what Preki said in his comments about US coaches, players and administrators. We are all about Athleticism. With the exception of Bradley and maybe Dempsey, all the others are black between the ears about the tactical aspect of the game. Look at the style of play of all three of our opponents, they basically resemble each other and they all gave the US trouble. One outstanding feature is their patience with the ball. Often times they can put 50 passes before their in a position to make a final attack on goal. And even then it might seem to us that they try to put one too many pass before taking a shot on goal.

  2. Lonaka K, July 14, 2015 at 7:26 a.m.

    I meant blank between the ears. I was not being racial.

  3. Chris Dailey, July 14, 2015 at 7:37 a.m.

    Lol. Gotcha, Lona.

    Four things stood out to me:

    1) Lack of defensive intensity. We were so passive in pressuring the ball. Allowing the Panama back line to calmly play the ball out of the back almost all night.
    2) Creativity in midfield. We are so friggin predictable 93.8% of the time I know where the next ball is going. This has to imorove.
    3) poise with the rock. Zardes was the most poised on the ball. We need more ballers willing to make plays, and hold the ball when appropriate.
    4) Chemistry. Thiugh expected with lime up changes, for a while it seemed like we were strangers from a foreign land playing a pick up game at a neutral site. Our women are a lot more connected in this regard.

    In the end, we need to do a better job of executing when to Hold vs. Penetrate. And, having the skill to execute when the time comes. U.S. Soccer emphasizes it a lot as I have gone through the coaching system earning National-B.

    We just are not there yet.

    Truly, I would us to find the American coach who can ignite the passion, creativity, and "Don't Tread On Me" mentality we seem to be missing a bit.

    Jurgen has done briught us forward. It is time for an American to lead us to a cup.

    Come out, come out, wherever you are. Heck, maybe it is me! Vive USA!

  4. David Mont, July 14, 2015 at 7:57 a.m.

    Anyone, including my neighbor's teenage son Johnny, would be better at right back than Chandler. Unfortunately, Johnny is not German, so Klinsmann won't consider him.

  5. Joey Tremone, July 14, 2015 at 8:10 a.m.

    Preki's a genius only because he's not coaching us. If he were coaching us, we'd suddenly notice he's saying the stuff that was 75% true 10 years ago. The US is on paper a more technical team than Panama (I say 'on paper' because we hardly showed it)--but we lost because Panama was far more athletic, and we did not adapt. "One outstanding feature is their patience with the ball." What?? NONE of those teams are patient with the ball--they all tended to fly forward and jump in our faces on defense. Our problem was we that we played their preferred tempo, one where athleticism matters more. Our opponents all offered us a hectic game, and we accepted it rather than stepping on the ball.

  6. cisco martinez, July 14, 2015 at 8:49 a.m.

    I wouldn't say preki is a genius but he's right. In fact, most of the important statistics in soccer show that if you have technical and tactical players teams will be successful. No English coach had won the premier league, 8 out 10 countries that won the World Cup are Latin based, Real Madrid has won the champions league title more than any team, the to players in the premier league are from Latin based countries, etc. Peter Vermes, Preki, and many others have said this, my problem is that this country still listen to English coaches.

  7. Miguel Dedo, July 14, 2015 at 9:32 a.m.

    Gyasi Zardes, for all his speed and glamour, is crude with the ball; Yedlin hardly better. If they are the future of US soccer we can look forward to many years of kick and run.

  8. Walt Pericciuoli, July 14, 2015 at 9:58 a.m.

    All good comments.We all agree our problems stem from the poor technical abilities of our players.A team's tactics must consider an assessment of it's overall technical abilities. To have tactics you must assume that your players can control the ball. We (USA) cannot control the ball. We must deploy tactics that do not require a great deal of control of the ball.Thus, fitness and athleticism is all we have going for us.So sad, after all the years and money spent.

  9. cisco martinez, July 14, 2015 at 10:20 a.m.

    Walt, Klinsmann is reluctant to pick players that have technical or tactical ability, Benny Feilhaber, not playing Bedoya in the first two games, his lineups make no sense. When you play a 4-4-2 diamond, the formation presumes tactical awareness, midfielders that can pinch in and link with forward, outside backs that can get forward, midfielders defending in a pack when they shift, and technical players that can create and find the weak side midfielder making runs diagonal runs, etc. Klinsmann and Bob Bradley have chosen athleticism over speed, Arena is one of the few coaches that stress technical and tactical ability. For the most part America's best were technical players, Eddie Lewis, Claudio Reyna, Tab Ramos, Steve Cherundolo; landon Donovan is the few exception, but he had great tactical awareness.

  10. cisco martinez, July 14, 2015 at 10:21 a.m.

    "Klinsmann has chosen athleticism over technique"

  11. Joe Linzner, July 14, 2015 at 10:44 a.m.

    I agree with Preki. The soccer coaches in the US is obsessed with size and speed. There is very little technical talent on this team. Nor is there any semblance of vision and positioning. Did anyone not that 50/50 balls were invariably won by Panama. Their passes were on the mark, ours were more often at Panama's feet as to our own... We JK for that? Does it occur to anyone that it is the players that are on the field and it is they who are not executing. I keep reading that the tactics arent suited to our players. HUH? what is complicated about stopping and quickly passing a ball and directing it accurately. Used to tell my players two important things, with a caveat to forwards. One: you can't lose a ball if yo haven't got it. Two: the ball is faster than you. (Used to charge a ball hog dribbler a nickel for every touch after the second and had a Pizza feed with the collection, added up quickly at the beginning of the season and dwindled at the end) Forwards: Your target is the goalpost, never the Goalie. I agree with Mr. Preki 100%.. In the final analysis I find AYSO and early Coaching the root of the dearth in skilled players. There is no reward for learning skills, blame unqualified parent soccer coaches and no basic skill drills. Heck, even Dempsey has trouble receiving a ball, it still bounces away nearly every time has to stop it to receive it. It is JK's fault.

  12. Kent James, July 14, 2015 at 11:17 a.m.

    Joey, you got it right. Our opponents have not been more skillful than we are (their dribbling has occasionally been more dangerous, but their finishing has been woeful). If they had been more skillful, we would have lost all 3 games. Ironically, it has been their speed and "physicality" that has given us trouble (and some bad defending and bad passing on our part). While we sometimes may need to put a brake on it when other teams are aggressively attacking us (as they have), I think we are at our best when we are making a lot of quick passes (1 and 2 touch) and incisive runs. We will certainly need to step it up if we hope to win the tournament, but I have faith we can do it. While we don't have enough game-changing players, who does (okay, besides Barcelona...)? And the players we have are certainly skillful enough to beat the other Concacaf teams (though Mexico presents a formidable challenge, we seem to have a psychological edge against them).

  13. Charles Stamos, July 14, 2015 at 11:25 a.m.

    A lot of comments above that I agree with - we lack quality first touches that are so critical to control the ball under pressure - we lack creativity on offense - the defense will be exploited until a solid four or five emerge that play well together and cover for each other and mark really well in the box - thank goodness we have world class keepers - JK has some work to do before Russia - we will probably win the Gold Cup as only Mexico looks like a capable opponent and we have their number right now and home field is an advantage at this stage. Is there any snow on any pitch in the US?

  14. Bob Ashpole, July 14, 2015 at 1:20 p.m.

    I think the Chandler critics in blaming him for weaknesses are not seeing the actual problem. Chandler is the slower fullback. So every team will be creating a speed mismatch against him. The coaching problem is not "find a faster flank player" but rather how to match up our 10 best field players against the opponent's 10 field players. Your fastest players cannot be everywhere at once. There also won't be one tactical solution that is best for all opponents.

  15. Bob Ashpole, July 14, 2015 at 1:33 p.m.

    Charles, while we might be saying the same thing, I phrase the problem as our attack is too predictable. The defensive solution is to shut down Bradley and Dempsey won't get quality service in a dangerous area. Dempsey reacts by tracking back deep to get the ball. Opponents would rather have Dempsey getting the ball in the middle third than in the attacking third. As for the other people criticizing athleticism, ball skills and vision are extremely important but that does not mean speed and strength are bad things to have. Slow down play enough and everyone is skilled on the ball.

  16. Bret Newman, July 14, 2015 at 1:49 p.m.

    We looked and played better last Gold Cup, mainly because of Landon Donovan, and our backline was better. This backline is garbage, and the only real offensive threat is Dempsey. I miss the days when we had defenders that new how to play their positions. Players like Dolo, Boca, Pope, Agoos, etc., etc.

  17. Charles Stamos, July 14, 2015 at 2:54 p.m.

    I would love to see a US player that can dribble the ball at pace and challenge the defender. The goal was a result of two sharp passes and we do that occasionally well. We also do set pieces fairly well with our height. I loved the one free kick that we pulled at the WC that should have resulted in a goal. We played it short, chipped it to a player running off the ball and he got behind the wall only to shoot right at the keeper. The play that set Bedoya in behind the defense needs to be repeated. Players making runs from 5 yards onsides, timing is crucial. Anticipate!

  18. Santiago 1314, July 15, 2015 at 10:44 p.m.

    @Chris Dailey,...Love your Post...A Former US Player may be what is Needed to take the Team to the next Level in the World Cup...My Vote is for Peter Vermes or Dominic Kinnear,,,Their Teams are not always the Prettiest, but they TRY to play, and they work their A$$ Off and Just keep Coming at you...They are NOT afraid to win Ugly, I think that is Part of JK's Problem, His ego
    won't let him "JUST WIN BABY, WIN"...Very Gringo attitude..."Remember the Alamo.!!!"...Even when we Look like we are Losing, we are gonna come back and KICK YOUR A$$ OFF the Pitch...JK.!!!Just Inspire us,,,Don't try to make it complicated and Touchy Feely...

  19. Santiago 1314, July 15, 2015 at 10:50 p.m.

    @Joey,...Technical Speed of Our Players was less than ALL 3 Teams...We got through on "American Exceptionalism" attitude...WE BELIEVED WE COULD WIN, the others did NOT...Worth ONE Goal everygame, Even when we get behind,
    As Long as we have a Coach, that is Willing to "WIND UP" the players and LET THEM COMPETE...When JK had the Team set up to play for a TIE, We were getting Beat...But Bring in the Aircraft Carriers (Dempsey, Yedlin) at Half-time and "Getter DONE"...Not the Prettiest thing, but it is what we Got...

  20. Santiago 1314, July 16, 2015 at 8:14 a.m.

    @Miguel,...Zardes is NOT Technically or Tactically Good enough to play Outside Mid...But JK needs to "Get Smart" and put him as the Hi-Forward(Maybe now that Jozy is gone, JK will)...There he can use those Longer Touches and Strides to Stretch the play and GO Directly to Goal... 1v1 "Auto" Pass right thru the Flat 4 Defense and "GO TO GOAL"

  21. Santiago 1314, July 16, 2015 at 10:34 a.m.

    Just like Alex Morgan.. Draw some PKs...

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