USA-Panama: No good excuses after disappointing result

The USA's streak of having won every Gold Cup opener -- 13 in all -- ended when it tied Panama, 1-1, in their opening game before a record Tennessee soccer crowd of 47,622 in Nashville.

More critically, the performance of many players simply wasn't good enough if they want to claim places on the national team for the next 12 months.

Often, the Gold Cup hosts have drawn an easy game to open the tournament, but Panama is a formidable opponent, the USA's likely challenger for the third and final automatic berth from Concacaf in the 2018 World Cup.

The Canaleros were a handful for a U.S. team that featured just three starters -- defenders Omar Gonzalez, Graham Zusi and Jorge Villafana -- from the team that tied Panama, 1-1, in World Cup qualifying in March.

"Inexperience is an excuse," said U.S. coach Bruce Arena, "but not a good excuse."

1. Dwyer and Rowe lone bright spots in the U.S. front six.

Dom Dwyer and Kelyn Rowe, both earning their second caps, were the lone bright spots in a U.S. front six that struggled to put consistent pressure on the Canaleros and lacked the coordination to contain them on the break.

USA-Panama: Player Ratings

Dwyer didn't get the chances he had a week earlier against Ghana but he was perfectly placed to take Rowe's centering pass and fire the ball through the legs of defender Roberto Chen and off the far right post and into the goal in the 50th minute. Rowe created two good chances for himself in the first half that were both pushed away by keeper Jose Calderon.

But Rowe was one of the many guilty parties on the sequence that led to Miguel Camargo's tying goal 10 minutes after Dwyer's goal when he missed Edgar Barcenas with his tackle, allowing the Panamanian to find Gabriel Torres for a shot that was parried by Brad Guzan.

2. Midfield struggles under Panama's pressure.

The big disappointment was in midfield, where Kellyn Acosta and Dax McCarty, who had both played well against Ghana, struggled, while Joe Corona and Alejandro Bedoya, both holdovers from the winning 2013 Gold Cup team, had little impact on the game.

Acosta and McCarty were outmatched by Anibal Godoy and Gabriel Gomez, one a current MLS player and the other a former MLS player. Under pressure from the Canaleros, the passing of Acosta and McCarty wasn't crisp and they were too frequently dispossessed.

"We didn't deal well with their pressure," said Arena, "especially in the midfield. We turned the ball over way too much in midfield. We didn't do a good job of establishing a rhythm, getting our team more involved in the game. Defensively, we didn't do a good enough job getting enough pressure on the ball dealing with some of their numbers in wide positions."

3. Arena has decisions to make for knockout stage.

The USA has lost only one of 40 group matches in the Gold Cup -- 2-1 to Panama in 2011 in Tampa, where it heads to face Martinique on Wednesday. After that, it's Nicaragua next Saturday in Cleveland, so there's little doubt the USA should reach the quarterfinals.

Arena will have 24 hours after the Nicaragua game to make up to six changes for the knockout stage, bringing in players from his preliminary list of 40 players. He's doing a balancing job -- giving players international experience and trying to win the Gold Cup for a sixth time -- but they are not entirely exclusive goals.

Bringing in MLS players like Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Darlington Nagbe -- all on breaks for the next week -- would help with the latter goal while ensuring a long run for their teammates who need more international experience.
12 comments about "USA-Panama: No good excuses after disappointing result".
  1. Nick Daverese, July 9, 2017 at 7:19 a.m.

    Not enough time on the practice field. If Bruce saw something he did not like he could have made a coaching point to try and fix it. Plus On 50/50 balls Panama went all out to win those balls. The US didn't do that.

  2. Nick Daverese, July 9, 2017 at 7:23 a.m.

    I miss more stuff that I used to did the opposing keeper actually catch any balls on his saves?

  3. Ben Myers, July 9, 2017 at 12:51 p.m.

    The contrast between second teams of the USMNT and the German National Team is stark. Assuming that the USMNT makes it through the Hex, anything more than three-and-out at the World Cup in Russia would be a monumental success. The USMNT is in transition now and the pipeline of upcoming candidates is not at all full. Although MLS represents a financial upgrade for Latin American players, it remains a poor vehicle for development of world class international players.

  4. Stanley Scott replied, July 9, 2017 at 8:33 p.m.

    Yours is a perfect summary, in my view, of the state of North and Central American soccer. I did not see a lot of skill on either side and just a touch more effort from the Panamanians, but that contest was hard to watch. L.Donovan did a decent job pointing out the deficiencies as #3 analyst. I can't believe the humid weather was that much of a hindrance to these squads.

  5. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, July 10, 2017 at 10:34 a.m.

    Wow, who knew Germany had greater depth than the US? Other than everyone who has ever watched soccer ever. The purpose of this unnecessary tournament (should only be one Gold Cup every cycle) is to find squad players for the world cup roster next summer. Whether the US advances from their group in Russia will depend quite a bit on the draw. That said, even with a tough draw last time, they made it to the knockout stages. I think that is the minimum we should expect at any world cup.

  6. beautiful game, July 9, 2017 at 3:02 p.m.

    ND, not enough time on the practice field? Any new player with a solid soccer IQ adjusts quickly. B.M., permit me to partially disagree with you. MLS is not a vehicle to develop quality players and won't be for decades. Any player with potential is wasting their time in the MLS.

  7. Nick Daverese replied, July 10, 2017 at 3:15 a.m.

    Adjust quickly to want? Not checking back at an angle. He blocked his team mates vision of the field in front of him. Then the dribbler gives him the ball and then what? He could not do anything with the ball it was sloppy playing. Why did his players adjust to that? Why didn't the flank player not be already open up on the flank. So he could get the pass and start his attack. Instead he had to run towards the flank to get that pass. He lost the ball a lot because he had to chase down the ball first. Why didn't they adjust to that? Even good players make stupid mistakes they have to be reminded at times. Like a said eith not enough time on the practice field or no one is really watching them play on the practice field.

  8. Bret Newman, July 9, 2017 at 3:04 p.m.

    Ben Myers, you sound like you based this on this one game. Comparing them to Germany, on how they will do in the World Cup, is not the way to do it, unless they draw Germany, and some other powerhouse soccer nation in their group. The USMNT isn't rebuilding, or in any great transition. They are just looking to see if they can add a few more players to make them stronger in World Cup qualifying, and eventually the World Cup.

  9. Joe Linzner, July 9, 2017 at 9:06 p.m.

    to look at new players is the venue for Friendlies. The Gold Cup is a tournament in which the USA should go through. Had Klinsmann been the coach for this game with the exhibition the team gave, the entire US would be screaming to the heavens... Arena Ball is OK though and is excused as normality. Sorry exhibition! Clueless!

  10. Nick Daverese, July 10, 2017 at 2:57 a.m.

    Joe I agree with you. But even in friendlies you try to win. That's why to don't put a team full of new players on the field. That is why you try to book friendlies against a good side. Most of the team are your guys then you add maybe two to three players who are new with team. The purpose is to try and make your new players to look as good as they can look. If they don't it's there fault. You gave them their best chance to look good.

    I liked Bruce because he at least used tontry and win them all.

  11. Bob Ashpole replied, July 10, 2017 at 1:20 p.m.

    Nick, I think Arena was expecting a tougher friendly against Ghana, not what actually happened. So the friendly wasn't challenging enough to be good preparation for Panama. Nick, you are ignoring the player "reload" opportunity after the group stage. Arena has not sacrificed anything by giving inexperienced players playing time during the group stage. If Arena doesn't bring a strong side to the knockout stage, then I will agree with you.

  12. Joe Linzner, July 11, 2017 at 1:03 p.m.

    I agree, one always plays to win. Getting through the group stage is just as important. The assumption that it is easy to get through qualify just bit Arena and trying to lollygag through any game is always dangerous. The time to expose new players is when the game is on ice!

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