It wasn’t pretty, but the USMNT was able to escape the third game of the group stage with a point. Jurgen Klinsmann lined his team up in a 4-4-2 formation similar to game one. He stuck with Brad Guzan in net, Timmy Chandler started at right back and Fabian Johnson started on the left side. John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado started in between them as the center backs. Kyle Beckerman played in a holding midfield role at the base of the diamond, Michael Bradley returned to the attacking midfield spot. A new wing pair was put in, Alfredo Morales and Alejandro Bedoya made their first appearances of the tournament. Gyasi Zardes and Chris Wondolowski were the striker pair to start the game. Panama started in a 4-4-2 as well, however, they played with flat central midfielders. The U.S. hoped to get off to a better start after their first two games started slow.
This was not the case, the U.S. struggled to get a foot hold in the game. They again struggled to hold onto the ball, first touches were a constant problem throughout the game. Panama started off flying, they found the back of the net in the 10th minute, off of a set piece from about 40 yards out, however, the linesman raised his flag for offside. It was apparent early on that Panama was dominating the flow of play, they were generating chances and capitalizing on the United States’ poor ball movement. Michael Bradley was absent for most of the first half, every time he was able to get on the ball it was between the center backs and not up field like Klinsmann wanted. Alejandro Bedoya was the lone U.S. player who was able to make an impact early on, fresh off of an injury that kept him out of the first two games, he was full of energy and he was able to consistently make dangerous runs on the right wing to help the U.S. generate some offense. In the 16th minute, John Brooks picked up a yellow, making it his second in two games. This means he will miss the quarterfinal match. Panama picked up a corner in the 21st minute, Brad Guzan was forced to make two big saves to keep the game in the balance.
The much anticipated debut of Gyasi Zardes starting at striker came as a disappointment. His touch was poor, and he didn’t have much involvement throughout the first half. Zardes and Wondolowski didn’t look on the same page as they didn’t generate much going forward for the United States. In the 34th minute Panama broke through, Luis Tejada dribbled into the box, shielded off Alvarado, and then was able to turn him and slide the ball across the face of goal, where Blas Perez was able to get on the end and slide it home. After the goal the U.S. finally started to wake up and get into the game. However, all of their offense was coming off of the right flank through Bedoya. In the 40th minute Wondolowski played Bedoya through behind the defense, where he was brought down from behind, the referee did not give the foul. However, on replay it appeared to be a fairly obvious call. Timmy Chandler continued his weak game by picking up a suspect yellow in the 43rd minute. Anibal Godoy picked up the first yellow for Panama a minute later in the 44th minute. It became apparent that towards the end of the half that the referee was losing control of the game. There was lots of chirping going on between players, both coaches were giving an earful to the fourth official. The first half came to a close with Panama leading 1-0. Jurgen Klinsmann did not wait around, making two changes to start the second half. Clint Dempsey came on for Chris Wondolowski, and DeAndre Yedlin came on for Alfredo Morales. Bedoya moved over to the left side with Yedlin going on the right. The start to the second half wasn’t anything special for the United States, Alvarado picked up a very questionable yellow in the 48th minute. This meant that 3 out of 4 U.S. back line players were sitting on yellow cards. The U.S. broke through in the 55th minute, Bedoya was able to dribble into the left side of the box and cross to the center where Bradley ran unmarked straight through the defense and knocked the ball into the net. From then on the U.S. controlled the pace of the game, they started to look like the stronger side. They were able to string nice sequences of one and two touch passes together. In the 71st minute Aron Johannsonn came on for Alejandro Bedoya, who looked like he had run out of gas after playing a strong game. Panama had the best chance to get ahead where in the 75th minute a shot was fired on Guzan from 5 yards out headed to the low nearside post. Guzan reached down and was able to make a world class save to preserve the tie. The U.S. was given a chance when a Panama defender stuck his hand out to block a pass, even though the handball seemed intentional the referee did not give him a caution. The free kick was from 35 yards out. Dempsey fired it on goal, however, the wall blocked the shot where it fell to Johannsonn. But the referee stopped play for a foul, further frustrating the U.S. after a lot of calls did not go their way. As the game came to the end the U.S. left the field feeling as if they should have done better than just one point.
While this was not an ideal result for the United States, they still were the top of their group. They will have a favorable draw in the quarterfinals, but they will be without John Brooks. Alvardo and Chandler will have to be careful in the next game because a yellow will get them suspended for the game after. Klinsmann has the opportunity to bring in 6 players from the 35 man provisional roster. He might look to bring in another center back, maybe dropping Timmy Chandler who has not put together a remotely good game yet. We could also see the addition of Brek Shea, or DaMarcus Beasley to help out on the left side. Its easy to say Jozy Altidore is on the hot seat and could be on his way home. Juan Agudelo is an option as a replacement. The U.S. plays next on July 18th against an opponent who hasn’t been determined yet, but its likely to be a 3rd place finisher in one of the groups. They will look to regroup over their days of rest, and come out strong in the knockout round.