The United States with a big rebound Tuesday evening on the heals of the Spanish Boston Massacre.
Sucking in Canada’s outside combo of Simeon Jackson and Josh Simpson deeply on the left, the US countered and controlled the flow of the game against the Canadians through the feet of Steve Cherundolo and Landon Donovan in the first. Jozy Altidore’s shot may not have been La Liga class–heck it may not have even been SPL class–but he used his body well and reinforced the elderly adage, “You can’t score if you don’t shoot.”
In the 2nd half with the United States morphing to a 4-5-1 of sorts, it was the Clint Dempsey Show as, unencumbered from right flank defensive responsibilities, Dempsey flew around the attacking third, notching the 2nd goal of the game. The US took it 2-0.
For their part, Panama, too, got their Gold Cup group stage off to a positive if slightly less emphatic start. The Panamanians went up early on the Guadeloupe and then held on and held off a harried down-a-man comeback to take their Game 1, 3-2.
The wins for both respective teams set up different mindsets heading into Game 2 Saturday in Tampa, Florida.
The United States will be looking to punish a Panama side that typically plays pack-it-in ball, looking to use Game 3 against Guadeloupe as a respite for their starters and to test out some of those that have been playing the scout team in training.
Meanwhile, the Panamanians–with Canada’s defeat to the US–have a little breathing room in this game as the winner of their Maple Leaf showdown in Game 3 will likely decide who the second team through is. They’ll probably look to steal one here and at worst keep any goal deficit better than their next opponent did.
The last time the US played Panama in Gold Cup 2009, it struggled at first with Route 1 football, hucking passes up to Brian Ching and Davy Arnaud and then not providing support. A tactical change by Bob Bradley to withdraw Robbie Rogers and push Heath Pearce up on the left flank started to open up some space for the runs of….wait for it…Kenny Cooper.
The US will face the same challenges in width here without giving exposing their backline.
Oh and expect the Yanks first set piece goal in this one. Panama is not a big team and with the front end of Landon Donovan or Michael Bradley in close proximity and the backend of a Clarence Goodson or Carlos Bocanegra coming up, the United States has a distinct advantage here.
Let’s get to our customary TSG preview. It goes:
About The Opponent: Panama
TSG What Are We Looking For/At
11 At The Whistle
About The Opponent: Panama
Above is their standard deployment and the biggest question for the Yanks will be how Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson manage the veteran pair of Luis Tejada and Blas Perez up top. The two were responsible for simple offball movement in concert to beat the terribly disorganized Guadeloupe central backtandem of Vlator and Lambourde. Basically just a lot of crisscrossing and short diagonal runs while their wingers stayed wide.
Ream and Goodson have more skill but only two starting reps together. This game will challenge their communication with one another with Tim Howard bellowing behind them.
Beyond the forwards, Panama will need to play a very good game to get the better of the States. Gabriel Gomez and Amílcar Henríquez anchor the interior of the midfield, both are regulars on their respective Colombian league clubs though neither standouts.
Carlos Bocanegra will has some work to do to contain Armando Cooper on his flank. The young Panamanian has progressed through the youth system ranks, has better than average pace and a usable outside shot. However, look for balls to be played through and over the top to Cooper and for the winger himself to make through balls and even crosses to the heads of Tejada and Perez his primary goal. The US will need to be careful–if they play a high line–about Cooper running behind it.
On the left is another youngster in 23-year-old Nelson Barahona with a lot of straight ahead speed, some dribbling ability and little else. The extremely poor man’s Luis Boa Morte.
The quarterback of the backline, their captain and probably their best player is Felipe Baloy. He’s a regular at Santos in the Primera, home of American Adrian Ruelas. Baloy and fellow veteran Luis Henriquez do a solid job on the left side of the line for Panama, it’s the right side where the US will likely look to attack down that side a little more in this match. The right centerback is 22-year-old wet-behind-the-ears Edgar Dascent; he of all of 3 caps to his name. Split out wide is Adolfo Macheda. Both are challenged in maintaining their marks.
Veteran Jaime Peneda will attempt to keep the net.
TSG: What Are We Looking For?
• Can the Yanks dictate the tempo and the game to Canada? Can they couple two solid performances in a row
We told you we would belabor this point…and it’s just starting. The US controlled the run of play for long stretches against Canada. It was a more impressive effort than expected.
Against a Panamanian team that plays a lot like Paraguay–though not nearly as talented–can the States continue to impose their will?
• How should and how will Landon Donovan be deployed?
Most recently against Paraguay’s 4-4-2, Donovan was effectively taken out of the game. Some of this may have been from knee tendonitis that forced Donovan’s club team to rest the US star for two weeks following his return from US duty.
Donovan on the interior sometimes gets lost in games like this and forces the US to rely on Clint Dempsey.
Is the US vastly superior to Panama and thus this will not be an issue or does Bob Bradley make a slight tweak to Donovan’s deployment to take advantage of the Yanks goal leader?
• Does Altidore rip off a good string of games here?
Our second game, our second talking point about Altidore. Altidore was good, not great against Panama.
He needs to move more and he needs to initiate contact much more.
Will he up his game again in the second Gold Cup go around. Fans can’t wait to find out.
• Will Freddy Adu make the bench?
If any group stage game offers the opportunity to see Adu in a sub role, this is the one with Panama fairly cookie-cutter defense.
11 at the Whistle
The skinny: Well fans, we blew it last time. Got Bob Bradley and the line-up off. Bradley going with players, like Juan Agudelo, who played more than 60 mins against Spain and using a youthful centerback pairing of Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson.
Hopefully less mistakes this time.
G: Tim Howard
DEF: Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Tim Ream, Carlos Bocanegra
The skinny: Nothing extraordinary here. Goodson and Ream should be given another run together. Carlos Bocanegra mans the left, providing a veteran for Ream to help manage the game. Steve Cherundolo likely back out to the right.
It’s possible that both Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Bornstein start–both present advantages and the ability to rest the two oldest outfield players for the Yanks.
If you need to select one to give your line-up at home a little wrinkle, pick Bornstein. With the Yanks probably looking to attack the left side a little more in Game 2 and Armando Cooper somewhat able to get up the flank, Bornstein would give Bradley the opportunity to actually get a fullback up in the attack to support Clint Dempsey.
CDM: Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley
The skinny: The formula already looks set here with Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley having their best game yet when paired against Canada. Maurice Edu looks a step behind their quality and relieves if necessary.
MID: Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan
The skinny: Dempsey will be relied on more in this game to help create, while Donovan–recovered from whatever illness–needs to show the stamina that has long been his hallmark. Donovan will likely be pushed a little wider than against Canada.
STR: Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo
The skinny: Looking to start building chemistry, Bradley continues to start Juan Agudelo and Jozy Altidore together here. Agudelo will be 22 in 2014; Altidore 25.
• The US backline either includes Bornstein or Spector.
» The skinny: Not a totally wild thought, but given Game 3 opponent Gaudeloupe likes to get up and down the pitch more, maybe Dolo or Boca gets a rest. Wouldn’t bet on it though.
• Robbie Rogers on the left; Dempsey pushed up top
» The skinny: Stranger things have happened, but worth noting here as it was Rogers work creating width in 2009 that started creating space for an advancing Heath Pearce that opened up the game in the Gold Cup quarterfinal. I would bet on Rogers being on the game day roster and possibly being a 2nd half sub.