U.S. opens Gold Cup Group A with lackluster 1-1 tie with Panama.
By Robert Wagman
(Saturday, July 8, 2017) -- The United States men opened Group B play in the CONCACAF Gold Cup with a lackluster 1-1 draw with Panama in front of a record 47,622 tonight in Nashville, Tenn.’s Nissan Stadium.
On a hot, sunny afternoon, with field temperatures pushing 100 degrees, it seemed at times as if many wearing the red, white and blue were less than interested in playing fast, attacking soccer. The exciting, organized, style exhibited in a 2-1 victory over Ghana in a friendly a week ago was almost completely absent today. Whether it was overconfidence or simply that the U.S. was over-trained is hard to say. Whatever the reason, the Americans were outplayed for long stretches of this match and was almost never in command.
”We didn’t play well on the day,” U.S. coach Bruce Arena said “We played OK. Nothing great. It’s a good experience for a number of our players.”
The U.S. next faces Martinique Wednesday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, a 9 p.m. (ET) match televised by Fox Sports 1 and Spanish-language Univision.
Panama opened the match in something of a defensive shell, expecting the U.S to come out breathing fire and surging ahead. When that didn’t happen – the Americans were not on the attack -- it emboldened Panama, which began to offer quick counter-attackss. From about the middle of the first half on, it was two teams playing evenly, and for periods near the end of the half and then from about the hour mark on, Panama was the attacking team and the U.S. was back on its heels.
The U.S. had more than its share of chances in the first half and then broke through in the 50th minute on some brilliance by two players, both of who were among the best Americans all match. Midfielder Kelyn Rowe took a throw-in in the left corner and he carried past two defenders and put a low pass into the middle. It found striker Dom Dwyer, who took the ball in and in one motion, beat Panama defender Roberto Chen. He sent the ball off the far post and into the net.
Instead of getting on in the attack, the U.S. started to sit back and it was Panama which went forward. It had what was its best chance of the match in the 55th minute It failed, but four minutes later, Edgar Barcenas outran U.S. defenders and whipped a cross for Gabriel Torres, whose driven header was kept out by a brilliant diving stop from Guzan. Despite the rebound being surrounded by U.S. players, Miguel Camargo pounced on the ball and put it back inside the lower left post and just out of Guzan’s reach for a 1-1 tie.
The last four meetings between the two the U.S. and Panama have ended 1-1.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan - 7: He stood tall, making two point-blank saves, seven overall, including denying Román Torres from close up. He commanded his area all afternoon..
Defender Jorge Villafaña - 4.5: He was very good going forward. The problem was on defense, where he needed to be good and was less so too often. As against Ghana, he had trouble with pace.
Defender Matt Besler – 5.5: After a decent first half, he seemed to fade.
Defender Omar Gonzalez - 6: He was key to the central defense all night. He organized things well, made several key stops, while winning aerial duels.
Defender Graham Zusi - 4.5: He was fine early, but as the game wore on, he was much less effective. He had problems with his one-on-one defending and tended to drop back and not challenge opponents. If he is going to convince Arena he can be depended on to be an outside defender, he will need to do much better.
Midfielder Kelyn Rowe - 6.5: For much of the afternoon he was, probably the best American in the middle. He had a strong two-way performance and his footwork and pass helped get the U.S. goal.
Midfielder Dax McCarty – 5.5: Not nearly as strong a performance as against Ghana. He had a high work rate early, but tailed off significantly. He did not control the ball or pass particularly well.
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya – 5: There was nothing wrong with his work rate, but he was just not very effective. He gave the ball up too easily. He is a veteran who needs to show more for his effort.
Midfielder Joe Corona – 4.5: As good as he was against Ghana, almost the opposite was true today. He seemed able to do little right. He added little to the U.S. attack and was ready to come out on the hour.
Midfielder Kellyn Acosta – 4: If one of his strengths is in free kicks, that talent was completely absent today. On offense, he gave up the ball much too often. He was active, but to little effect.
Forward Dom Dwyer – 7: Once again, he showed he belongs at this level, or higher. His reaction shot accounted for the U.S. scoring. He was hamstrung early with lack of service, but worked hard to create for himself.
Midfielder Juan Agudelo (62nd minute for Corona) - 5: For the first few minutes he came in, he gave the U.S. a bit of a lift, but faded quickly and had little effect.
Midfielder Gyasi Zardes (69th minute for Rowe) - 5.5: Likewise, his pace acted as a boost for a fading U.S. midfield, but he too faded quickly and overall added little.
Forward Jordan Morris (85th minute for Bedoya) – no rating: He had a couple of opportunities to add something, but fell short..
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Brad Guzan.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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