Bradley, Dempsey strike to help U.S. end drought 2-0 over Panama.
By Robert Wagman
(Sunday, February 8, 2015) -- Pretty first-half goals by veteran midfielders Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey in a 10-minute span allowed the United States men to return to winning ways by defeating Panama 2-0 in front of 20,271 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
The U.S., which snapped a five-match winless streak (0-3-2), ended a three-game losing streak, having last won 1-0 at the Czech Republic on September 3.
Bradley’s tally was terrific, directly off a left-side corner kick with the ball finding the top right corner over outstretched Jaime Penedo, the goalkeeper for Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy.
Dempsey was sent through on a long run on a pass from Galaxy midfielder Gyasi Zardes. Dempsey collected the ball, stepped around Penedo, and pushed his shot into the net for his 40th goal in international competition.
U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann abandoned the experimental 3-5-2 setup he tried against Chile in a 3-2 setback at Chile two weeks ago and the Americans seemed more settled and relaxed with four in the back. The two middle defenders, Jermaine Jones and Matt Besler, were both comfortable and handled things easily. Brek Shea and DeAndre Yedlin on the outside seemed less at home, but Shea moving back form midfield was mostly a product of most U.S. flank defenders being unavailable, playing in Europe.
Steve Birnbaum, whose international debut came against Chile and was noteworthy, suffered a minor knee injury Friday in training and was not available.
In addition, with another 10 days of practice, the Americans looked more organized and fitter then they appeared in Chile. It also helped that Panama, with an inexperienced side, was nowhere nearly as strong as Chile was at home. Panama only managed five shots, with just two on goal.
Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez brought an extremely young team, including six players from his under-20 squad which upset the U.S. 1-0 in at the CONCACAF championships in Jamaica last month. Gomez brought three veterans from MLS -- FC Dallas forward Blas Perez, Colorado Rapids striker Gabriel Torres and Penedo.
(Both the U.S. and Panama qualified from the 24-nation world under-20 championship tournament in New Zealand, starting May 30 and running to June 20. Mexico also qualified from CONCACAF, the federation of North America, Central America and the Caribbean.)
The U.S. senior men next travel for a March 25 meeting with host Denmark in Århus.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando - 6: He had little to do in the half he played..
Defender Matt Besler - 5.5: He made one early error, but after that was flawless. In truth, neither he nor his central Mate Jermaine Jones was put under much pressure at all.
Defender Jermaine Jones - 5.5: For once, he did not try to do too much and played within himself. The former defensive midfielder looked more relaxed and played well at his new position. He went forward on occasion, including a header he rocketed directly at Penedo in the 60th minute, the best American chance in the second half.
Defender DeAndre Yedlin - 4.5: He came limping off after 70 minutes in a poor overall showing. His crossing was weak and he was mistake-prone.
Defender Brek Shea - 5: He pretty clearly was a midfielder playing out of position. He tried to get forward and was successful on occasion, but he was obviously in unfamiliar circumstances.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 6.5: He scored a wonderful, world-class goal. He was very active during the first half in a more offensive role than in previous matches. With the U.S. defense solid, he was free to move forward.
Midfielder Mix Diskerud - 5.5: An up-and-down match. At times, he looked good and made solid plays. Then, for long periods, he disappeared. He looked tired by the time he came out.
Midfielder Gyasi Zardes 6: Normally a forward, he performed well, making an accurate pass to spring Dempsey. His most impressive appearance so far for his national team.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey - 6.5: He was more active than he was against Chile. He scored an precise finish he set up with his pace. He seemed to get a bit tired as the second half progressed and was ready to come out near the end.
Forward Miguel Ibarra - 5.5: The first player from the second-division North American Soccer League to play on the full national team, he did fine in earning his first cap. He played the wing with speed and, while he could have crossed better, he got himself in position to make plays. He looks to be a player that can develop in the months to come.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 6: He was back to playing as a lone striker. He was active early, much less so as the first half wore on before leaving at intermission with hamstring soreness.
Goalkeeper Sean Johnson (46th minute for Rimando) - 5.5: He had little to do, but was in good position with his one save..
Forward Chris Wondolowski (46th minute for Altidore) - 4.5: He whiffed on one golden chance in front of the Panama net and then spent the rest of the half trying to show how tough he was in a chippy display. He added almost nothing to the U.S. attack.
Defender Matt Hedges (72nd minute for Yedlin) - 5.5: He made no missteps, but really had little to do in his first international appearance.
Midfielder Perry Kitchen (72nd minute for Diskerud) - 5.5: He made one or two defensive plays and got off several passes, but the match had pretty well wound down by the time he got in.
Forward Lee Nguyen (79th minute for Ibarra) NR: Really did little and had no impact.
Midfielder Luis Gil (81st minute for Dempsey) - no rating: Very little to do.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Michael Bradley.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
Do you have a comment on this story or something to say about soccer in general? Send us a letter.