Americans can't come back from slow start, fall to Panama in Gold Cup.
By Robert Wagman
(Sunday, June 12, 2011) -- The United States men dug themselves a big hole and despite a rousing second-half rally, fell 2-1 to Panama in Group C of the CONCACAF Gold Cup before a somewhat sparse crowd of 27,731 last night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
It was the first loss in group play for the U.S. in 11 visits to the Gold Cup (24-1-2). The Americans (1-1) close group play against Guadaloupe (0-2) Tuesday at LIFESTRONG Sporting Pak at 9 p.m. (ET). The U.S. will advance to the quarterfinals with a victory, probably with a draw and even possibly with a loss in that match.
As has often been with the case recently, the U.S. got off to a bad start and its disorganized defense was exploited by Panama, which used its speed to great advantage. Panama also defended well, packing the midfield and its penalty area whenever the Americans advanced, while also getting numbers of attackers forward quickly on counters.
While the U.S. started quickly in its tournament-opening 2-0 victory over Canada, the Americans just didn't seem ready for Panama. They ceded control early and the Panama and falling behind on a point-blank rebound goal in the 19th minute, the U.S. had to play catch up while Panama efficiently added numbers behind the ball.
Panama's combination of its rock solid and physical defense with fleet-footed forwards and attacking midfielders was more than the U.S. could handle. Panama dominated possession and, when the Americans were able to push deep into the offensive zone, they were met with defenders who cleared everything.
"On the night, we weren't good enough," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "In the game, we had the ball early and a chance to gain control. Panama did a good job defending and, as we're trying to open them and find spaces, we allow them the first goal. At that point, their game plan becomes stronger. We still have the same approach, but the second goal makes it hard. In the second half we put a lot into it. We had some good chances, but nonetheless we weren't sharp enough in the areas that mattered."
The second Panama goal was a gift from U.S. center-back Tim Ream, who clumsily and unnecessarily hacked down Panama striker Blas Perez as it was about to leave the box while chasing down a ball. Gabriel Gómez made it 2-0 with his penalty kick for a goal that turner out to be decisive.
Defender Clarence Goodson started the American comeback with a diving header from five yards out in the 68th minute, but the U.S. could not get the equalizer despite controlling the action. Reserve forward Chris Wondolowski failed to put away striker partner Jozy Altidore's cross despite being three yards from an empty net and Michael Bradley also came up empty, shooting wide right of an open goal from about 15 yards away.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 5.5: Tried in vain to organize his defense that was confused and often out of position. Might be faulted for not covering the cross that led to the first Panama goal.
Defender Steve Cherundolo -- 5: Often moved forward to set up the attack, but then had a bad night crossing with few of his usually accurate feeds going where intended. Was generally solid on defense.
Defender Clarence Goodson - 6: Scored the only U.S. goal and was a threat on set plays. His defense was generally steady, but at times, especially in the early minutes, seemed to contribute to the confusion in back for the U.S.
Defender Tim Ream - 3: Just inexperienced. Foul setting up Panama penalty kick was as much a mental mistake as physical. Throughout the night, he was befuddled by the pace of the Panamanian attackers and was constantly out of position or a step behind. .
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 4.5: Was involved early, but then less so as the evening wore on. Made some good defensive stops, but overall, this was not one of his better matches.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 5: A tale of two halves. He was simply not effective the first 45 minutes, but did considerably better after that. Was the key to the American goal, flicking a corner kick to the far post where Goodson put it away.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 5: Worked hard, but at times was simply too slow and held the ball when he should have released it. Started off strong, but after getting a yellow card in the 18th minute, he seemed to grow cautious, which is not his game.
Midfielder Landon Donovan - 4: Had another of those games where he disappeared out on the wing for long stretches, especially in the first half. Did little over the first hour, but was better in the closing 30 minutes. Overall, he had a sub-par performance.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey - 6: Worked very hard and created multiple chances, but just had one of those nights where his shots ended up everywhere but in the net. Certainly cannot be faulted for lack of effort.
Forward Juan Agudelo - 4.5: Could not handle the highly physical defending he faced. Had his good moments, but was constantly pushed wide of goal and did not attack well.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 4.5: He did not create many chances. Too often attacks directly at multiple defenders with negative results.
Midfielder Sacha Kljestan (60th minute for Jones) - 5: Made good plays over the final 20 minutes using pace to open space for himself. Gave the U.S. a needed lift.
Forward Alejandro Bodoya (61st minute for Agudelo) - 5: Put in a lot of effort and had chances. Performance marred by spectacular dive for which he was carded.
Forward Chris Wondolowski (78th minute for Goodson) - 3: In the final minutes, he had an open, point-blank shot directly in front of the goal, good for a tie if he converted, but could not finish.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Clarence Goodson.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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