USA Dominant In Victory Over Panama
By Marc Serber
It was dominant, it was ruthless, it was what Klinsmann wanted. It’s also what the US should do against inferior opposition.
The USA’s 2-0 win deserves all the plaudits. It was a strong 90 minute performance.
With Mexico and Costa Rica drawing 0-0 the Stars and Stripes knew they had a chance to take control of the Hex.
From the opening whistle, the US pinged the ball around well. Against a physical side that likes to get a body on you, the best strategy is to move the ball quickly.
The faster you are in and out of space, the less of a chance Julio Dely Valdes’ side has to step in the lanes and muscle players off the ball.
The US dominated the midfield with Fabian Johnson and DeMarcus Beasley looking dangerous down the left. Beasley put in a few menacing crosses early on while Fabian Johnson had a half chance but couldn’t keep his volley down, just two minutes in.
While the US continued to open up the space by creating width, it was the work of Geoff Cameron and Michael Bradley, bossing the game in the middle of the park which led to both goals.
Cameron’s work in the hole allowed Bradley to pour forward at will, keeping the Panamanian back-line on its heels.
The opening goal was a perfect illustration of the pair’s dominance. Cameron won the ball in midfield and quickly fed it to Bradley. The Roma man ran right at the heart of the defense before rolling it out to Fabian Johnson whose pinpoint cross was met by Jozy Altidore at the far post.
Jurgen Klinsmann had to be smiling on the US bench. His side pressured high and hit on the counter at break neck speed. The work of the midfield through the center allowed Altidore to once again peel off his defender and make the right run.
The AZ Alkmaar no longer has to play as a classic number 9. Just standing centrally to either try and turn or hold up the play.
With the midfield getting forward and Clint Dempsey’s subtle, late breaking runs underneath him, Altidore can now play more as a “9 1/2”. His hold up play is strong, his ability to turn well documented, but now we are seeing that extra dimension. His ability to make the correct runs through the seams of the defense.
His creativity off the ball is becoming just as devastating as his finishing from inside the area. This is why Altidore now has three goals in as many games.
The US finished out the half with confidence. Moving the ball forward with an ever growing confidence.
It didn’t hurt that Panama came out a bit sloppy in the second half. Possession being given back to the US almost at will, but it was Cameron’s tenacity in midfield which led to the second goal for the home side.
Cameron displayed his passing range. Instead of a quick release to Bradley, he played a Xabi Alonso-like diagonal ball over the outside back. Eddie Johnson’s clever run and neat finish was the perfect compliment to another quick counter originating from a strong tackle in midfield.
Perhaps Mark Hughes is now pondering where best to use the American at Stoke City.
In this space, I have often lamented that the USA tends to “hit a wall” or break down around the 65th minute. I feared it would be more of the same as Rolando Blackburn entered to joined Luis “King Kong” Tejada up top and creative midfielder Nelson Barahona came on to add some spice to the Panamanian midfield.
While there were a few nervous moments, the US regrouped quicker than ever before and was back to its ruthless best. Beasley’s lung-bursting run and shot off the post would have been the perfect coup de grace, but it still exemplified the type of play that has led the US to take a comfortable lead atop the CONCACAF table.
It was nice, it was fun to watch, it was exciting to see Klinsmann’s men kill a game in front of a fervent crowd that ignited the Emerald City.
It was still a weak and aging Panama side that was missing Blas Perez. Now the test is to see if revenge is taken against a stronger Honduras side in a similar fashion.
The goal is now for Klinsmann and his men to keep moving forward. Otherwise we’re back to the same old pattern of one step forward and two steps back.