Observations: USA 1, Panama 0

Some good things; some bad things...

The United States went south to Panama Wednesday night and came away with a win against a CONCACAF up-and-comer and little else.

The small margin of victory came early in the contest as Zach Loyd lofted a ball into the box. Chris Wondolowski challenged his defender for it as it skipped (or grazed) past their heads.

The marble caromed of the unsuspecting heal of Teal Bunbury into the waiting path of Bunbury’s Sporting KC teammate Graham Zusi (“Encino Man”) who slotted it past Luis Meija for the difference in the match. Zusi was open as the result of a defensive gaffe by Panama, one of their few stumbles of the evening for the opponent defensively. Their attack was another story.

There was little else to cheer Wednesday as the States’ struggled to generate attacking opportunity with probably the incorrect formation to break down Julio Dely Valdes’s team.

The US came out in a 4-4-2, with CAM Benny Feilhaber sacrificed from the Saturday Venezuela line-up for Wondolowski, but the States struggled to link successfully up to the two forwards as Panama came out and elected to challenge Jurgen Klinsmann’s men in the midfield instead of playing pack-and-counter. The gambit left the States weak–personnel-wise and numbers-wise–and the imbalance only excaserbated as the US’s lone psuedo-creative midfielder Jermaine Jones tired from his second game on short rest after what has been a long club hiatus from him.

Encino Man FTW early on...

[Zusi's goal]

In fact, that’s a good point to lead off our observations:

• The Ghosts of Clubs Past

A common criticism of US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was an alleged complete lack of tactical nous. Today’s display would support that argument.

Klinsmann–as did TSG–expected Panama to bunker a bit and play on the counter. Panama had shown this hand during the Gold Gup in two matches against the States–playing counter ball in the game one group stage match and playing outright bunker ball in the elimination game.

Panama, however, came prepared and pushed a higher defensive line while compressing their forward and midfield bands.

This had two negating effects that choked the US attack.

First with more clogging in the center of the pitch, it stymied the US opportunities to link up with Wondolowski and Bunbury.

Second, the compression of players allowed Panama to play a wider defensive game, essentially crowding out Brek Shea and suffocating the Great Mane forward with direct pressure as soon as he received the ball. The defender thrown at Shea was further re-inforced by another one playing right behind him.

There are a few customary tactics to break down this type of defense. One is to piston forwards to and from the ball and switch field aggressively–the US generally failed in this approach due to personnel and reactive play.

The second is to take chances through or over the top to drop the defensive line. The US was adequate with this approach with Jermaine Jones slinging the ball over top on occasion, alas Wondolowski and Bunbury were not up to the task.

Back to the former, with the US’s lack of expert off-ball movement–not just in this game–it left ballhandlers typcially stranded unless Jermaine Jones came to rescue them. Supporting CDM Ricardo Clark was a nightmare in the holding role, but we’ll get to that.

Klinsmann seemed ill-prepared or unwanting to amend his plan in-game. With neither Bunbury or Wondolowski adept at dropping deep and distributing, attacks died before they started. Perhaps Bunbury–who was the more frequent midfielder visitor–was tasked with this role and utterly failed. If that was the case, though, there should have been an adjustment or substitution earlier than CJ Sapong with less than a half hour less.

A smart early tactical move would have been to either sacrifice a forward for Benny Feilhaber or to drop Graham Zusi–hardly a threat off the corner–into the middle.

The few times that Zusi came central the US moved the ball well in the half.

More observations:

» There were also a number of positive Klinsmann moves he showcased tactically.

First, Klinsmann’s subtle change to move his central defenders more narrow has improved both the inside communication and where the back four draw the line and accounted for the dangerous central runs that marred the US under the last regime. By playing narrow, theoretically it pushes the forward off-center and allows the other center back an opportunity to recover if the first defender falters.

There were more challenges Wednesday night as Geoff Cameron and Michael Parkhurst dealt with savvier forwards but in general the few times that the US gave up dangerous were on turnovers in the midfield where the line had little time to react.

Feilhaber appeared to hurt his cause this camp...

» At the outset, Klinsmann introduced Zach Loyd and Chris Wondolowski for Heath Pearce and Benny Feilhaber respectively. TSG pointed out that Pearce was negligent in defensive fundamentals on Saturday while Feilhaber was repeatedly prone to defending his actions to the ref instead of “just defending.”

While Pearce made an appearance for a much-to-overzealous Loyd, Feilhaber was a DNP. Has Klinsmann already grown tired of Feilhaber’s on-field antics and defensive petulance? Don’t be surprised if come World Cup Qualifying time if Feilhaber’s name is not in the 18 for that squad.

In fact, somewhat incredulously, with Jermaine Jones’s performance it would seem they were both vying for perhaps what is one central midfield spot and Jones clearly showed better.

» Ricardo Clark was installed as the holder and looked absolutely lost. Clark did make a few nice runs and tackles, but in general on offense the Bundesliga midfielder was late to support and nearly always choose the wrong continuing option in passing sequences. Clark’s performance Wednesday makes it easier to understand how his role has been minimal and Eintracht Frankfurt and why they’ve tried him in central defene.

» Another challenging day at the office for Teal Bunbury. Bunbury looked completely flummoxed by what he was supposed to do in the offense. The Sporting KC forward was late, reactive and-or tentative coming back to provide hold-up play. he was more comfortable making forward runs, but never took an angle on them that was quite so dangerous. And repeatedly, Bunbury drove the ball into poor positioning in possession, one time losing the ball in his defensive third in a precarious position.

The juxtaposition of what Juan Agudelo could do in that role and what Bunbury did was stark.

Continually–heading back to Kansas City for the season–one has to wonder if the veteran tutelage that Bunbury clearly needs is available at the club to help him grow. MLS fans should watch for that in-season.

» While Michael Parkhurst showed very well positionally in defense, there were moments when Dynamo wunderman Geoff–(the Coporal? The General?) Cameron showed his inexperience. Rest easy Dynamo fans, these were situations in terms of holding the line and passing the attacker down the line to the outside back on a diagonal run.

Another area where Cameron needs to work on his game is not telegraphing when he’s going to turn up and outside with the ball when he’s recovering possession with his back to an attacker. he’ll get there also.

Red cards happen–and that was one. The 52nd minute one that Cameron received is not a big stain.

» Though his partnership with Bunbury was a failure, Wondolowski still popped up here and there in dangerous places. The San Jose man deserves to get a few more looks.

» Zach Loyd had a difficult game. Ironically, it was a very similar game to the one that his defensive mate Ricardo Clark had against Ghana. Loyd had a nice early ball for the score and his 13th minute yellow card a necessity in order to thwart what could have been Luis Renteria skating in on Nick Rimando, but generally Loyd couldn’t calm his aggression and his game suffered. The FC Dallas man will need more international seasoning before actively becoming part of the “A” team depth chart.

» Speaking of Nick Rimando, an excellent game for the Real Salt Lake keeper. Rimando was likely chosen coming out of the gates due to his Central American resume and his part in RSL playing out of the back–as Klinsmann likes to play. Where he truly excelled was in keeping low to the ground and forcing difficult shots the one or two times an attacker got through. Well done.

Sean Johnson wasn't the only one giving Shea an earful last night....

» Brek Shea looked to be both pressing and still suffering from a cold. Shea was delayed in his movements, but in fairness this was a game where he was expected to carry the offense perhaps and he had little help in the way of support or players running off the ball of him. He should play just fine when a player like Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan is taking some of the attacking weight off his shoulders.

» Solids 2nd halves from both Sean Johnson and CJ Sapong. What I really liked about Johnson–who TSG prefers to Bill hamid for USMNT goalie up-and-comer–was his assertiveness in the 78th minute. Shea failed to close down a cross and Johnson let him know about it.

Johnson is a very reserved keeper, almost aloof. The disposition serves him well because it must be frustrating for opponents to see him act “business-as-usual” after a fantastic save. Must also give the defense confidence. That said, he was spot on and took the lead in telling Shea about his gaffe. Perhaps a coming of age moment.

As for Sapong, it was a short trial and Sapong shows the innate “target striker” tools that the US desperately needs. If Sapong can make another leap in his sophomore year–always a challenge for a second year forward– then his name will move up the depth chart accordingly.

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40 responses to this post.

  1. We got outplayed, and I can’t remember seeing many moments of real quality from a single field player throughout the game – Jones had the 30 yard strike and honestly, that was about it. Twellman was saying that Zusi did well to maintain his composure and stay patient on his goal…but it looked to me like it simply took him a second to realize that the ball was free. His head snaps back in what I would assume is surprise after the ball takes its first bounce and then he steps up for the shot. And I thought that Cameron might’ve gotten off with a yellow; Parkhurst was also right there and it looked a little embellished. Bunbury did absolutely nothing to make me think he deserves to be in our striker pool; I’m fairly certain that I’ve seen horses with a better first touch than that man.

    We played cynically at times today. Lots of fouls that were deservedly called, and I’m not wild about that. This seemed like a team intent on making the game choppy.

    Rimando played out of his mind in terms of shotblocking, but there were a few times where he made me pull my hair out of my head. Johnson did nothing to make me think that he played poorly; if any positive can be taken from these games then it’s that our keeper pool isn’t thin behind Mister Howard.

    And I’ll never watch a Classico before a USMNT game again. I haven’t been so jaded by a day of football in my life.

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    • Posted by kaya on 2012/01/26 at 11:01 AM

      I definitely had the same thought about watching that game after the Cope del Rey QF. Haha.

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      • Posted by josh on 2012/01/26 at 1:55 PM

        ditto. It was like watching a high school game.

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        • This is still the USA “B” Team though, I will give credit for the ability to Grind out the results and Keeping a clean sheet. Klinnsmann seemd to have kept A.J. DeLaGarza on the pitch without subbing him, is he one of the more consistent players?

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  2. Posted by Korey on 2012/01/26 at 10:45 AM

    Really good assessment… I agree with almost everything above

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  3. Posted by kaya on 2012/01/26 at 10:56 AM

    I know a lot of it was the complete lack of pressure from the CDM, but I don’t really see how the backline acquitted itself as “well” as you make out on the monotonous stream of over-the-top passes to Renteria.
    I haven’t gone back and watched it, but that red card was begging to happen given the regularity the US was having problems with these passes.

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  4. Posted by Union on 2012/01/26 at 11:12 AM

    To me, the biggest issue was plain and simple. Skill level. The guys on the reserve roster (outside of senior team guys like Shea/Jones) have a lot of trouble handling the ball in tight spaces. They were getting very uncomfortable when pressed with the ball and the result was negative passes/holding on to the ball for too long. This, as we all know, has been a problem with US soccer for awhile, and is part of, or the entire reason why Jurgen has been stressing the US player pool needs to develop at a younger age and play/train competitively for 10-11 months out of the year. The players have talent, to me its all mental. I will say, the above-referenced problems I just mentioned were more obvious w/ our LB/RB and forwards.

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  5. Posted by Patrick on 2012/01/26 at 11:17 AM

    i am with you on many of your observations. I’ll add that in general and even before the questionable red card, the USMNT looked flat. Needed Benny in there last night – Teal and Wondo really needed Benny in there last night. Cameron is pretty solid! I think Brek always works hard and is a great dude but really since/including the Belgium game he has not really played all that great, in fact last night he looked a bit sloppy on the ball when attacking or taking on defenders – I suppose he’s fatigued after camp but I guess I am hoping he’ll breakout and be an awesome threat. Teal’s first touches were crazy bad last night in my humble opinion and I like Teal normally. Can’t wait to see who takes the field for the Italy game.

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  6. To me, this looked quite a lot like a Bradley-era formation and style, but considerably less effective. A lot like a 4-2-2-2… but without our outside midfielders (Zusi, Shea) cutting inside to provide a dynamic CAM like role.

    The thought was pretty clearly to play Jones a little further up the pitch, but was stifled by the Panama high line. Installing Feilhaber probably would have been a tactical solution – especially exchanging for a striker after the red card – but I have the feeling this game was more about Jurgen experimenting.

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    • Posted by dth on 2012/01/26 at 12:58 PM

      Not sure 4-2-2-2 describes it well–both central midfielders last night were asked to do much more going forward than what Bradley wanted (amusingly, I think Michael Bradley would’ve been well-suited for last night’s game). I think Klinsmann was going for a Bundesliga-type of uptempo, driving 4-4-2. At times it almost worked (loved that sequence with the Shea-Loyd give-n’-go), but most of the time it didn’t, obviously.

      Would’ve liked to see the game replayed with Agudelo in Bunbury’s spot.

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      • Posted by crow on 2012/01/26 at 1:03 PM

        I thought Loyd did quite well after he settled down from those early mistakes.

        Why was DeLaGarza constantly keeping attacking players onside by not being in sync with his defensive line? I can’t stand him- he has no business playing at the international level.

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        • Posted by dth on 2012/01/26 at 2:32 PM

          I think he’s best as an undersized CB. Not sure why the RB thing.

          I’ve been surprised by Sheanon Williams’s lack of play. To me, he’s pretty darn good.

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          • Posted by Crow on 2012/01/26 at 6:50 PM

            I can’t wait for Sheannon Williams to tear it up at RB at the Olympics. He’ll get a look after that.

            I don’t think DeLaGarza is even that good of a CB. He is extremely overrated in my eyes. At the least, he does not belong at the international level.

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            • Posted by dth on 2012/01/26 at 7:00 PM

              Not sure whether Williams makes it there. In scrimmages at least, Porter has preferred Sarkodie to Williams, and in the Olympics he has to contend with the likes of Timmy Chandler.

            • Posted by Crow on 2012/01/26 at 7:16 PM

              Its possible Chandler won’t get released considering he wasn’t released for the Gold cup. What ever happened with his potential transfer to Stuttgart? And they could use him at LB.

              I’d be surprised if Sarkodie was used over Williams, and I heard that Williams was “impressing” in camp.

  7. Posted by crow on 2012/01/26 at 1:00 PM

    Ricardo Clark is so bad it hurts. How this guy has been able to get so many minutes for the National Team and in big games is beyond me. Larentowicz was a huge upgrade and that is saying something.

    Sapong was a beast holding the ball up. Too bad he just missed being eligible for the Olympic team. I want to see more of him.

    I too liked how confident Sean Johnson was.

    Looking forward to the games that count coming up and we can make some real observations- Olympic and WCQ.

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  8. Posted by chazcar2 on 2012/01/26 at 1:03 PM

    I have a feeling a lot of this game was putting players back into the fire on short rest.

    Also this game was strikingly similar to the last panama games to me. Our Central midfield was giving their central mids too much space to pick out a pass over the top. The strikers kept finding the seem in between our Central Defenders. Given that you KNEW panama would line up 4-4-2 and with the players on the team I was hoping for a 3-5-2. Pearce-Cameron-Parkhurst, Jones-Larentowicz, Shea-Zusi-Loyd, Bunbury-Sapong. And I would have said that before the game (mainly because I am silly about a 3-man backline).

    I must be seeing the game differently than most, because Zusi has been the best player on the pitch in these games. While his fitness and Sharpness were not there, he was thinking the right way. Not forcing himself into the game, but also making an impact when appropriate. Also I think deployed centrally he really would shine. Jones was making crazy runs and showing off his skill set, but he just looks bad to me. Constantly overplaying while with the ball, but then not closing down without. Parkhurst and Cameron were also very good. Everyone else was meh.

    One last comment. Just because a player is a forward and big doesn’t mean he is a hold up striker. Both bunbury and Altidore get forced into that role, and I just don’t think they are good at it. Both are hoping for that through ball on the ground that they run onto and then shoot. Both Bob and Jurgen seem confused by this fact. Hold up is a mindset not a body type.

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  9. [...] as always The Shin Guardian provides their adept observations on USA vs. Panama. (The Shin [...]

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  10. My guess is that Klinsmann was thinking as much about getting the tactics right to play against Panama as seeing what Bunbury and Wondo could do in a two striker set. Basically, the tactics were about examining the striking options looking forward to games that mean something rather than beating Panama in a meaningless friendly.

    I don’t claim any special insight into Jurgen’s mind but he hasn’t put much stock in the actual results of these games, as much as getting the team playing the way he wants. This was a much better performance than we’re accustomed to seeing from the b-side. Yes, they’re not as good, but it’s worth noting that they were having a go at playing the same way as the a-side. That is evidence of Jurgen’s progress. Also, these guys are clearly much fitter than Bradley’s sides. There was little sign that they were down a man until the got the ball into the final third and they had enough threat going forward with 10 men to keep Panama honest.

    Frankly, I think Feilhaber is done with the national team for a while. He’s got flashes of something on occasion, but he’s not really one of the Dempsey class where you can ignore his lack of contribution to the overall team effort because he’s got so much upside. Not that Dempsey has lately been accused of the deficiencies in his contribution to the team that he once was.

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    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/01/26 at 3:53 PM

      I think the counterpoint Tuesday is that you only really saw that Teal Bunbury isn’t ready or maybe able long-term to play the target striker role. I’m not sure what you learned about Wondo.

      And frankly, given Panama’s defense it further limited investigation in my opinion because Jones for one did tire. While the team may be more “fit” it was their disposition to not absorb pressure all day long–as a Bradley team would–that kept them afloat when down 10 men.

      I concur on the rest of your points in terms of overall performance & consistency with the “A” team….and of course Feilhaber. Such a shame…the proverbial “doesn’t get it.”

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      • I would put him up against Robbie Rogers, but you can go with either one.

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      • Posted by kaya on 2012/01/26 at 7:32 PM

        I have to say the Feilhaber thing has surprised me. I didn’t catch it in his stint in the Bradley era and had chalked up his absence to being too much competition for Junior.
        I was really surprised by his attitude and I would suppose that why we never saw him get out of the Danish league. What a waste to spend your youth being so young.

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    • Posted by Martin on 2012/01/26 at 6:00 PM

      Regarding Benny, in post game quotes JK said “Obviously the red card makes it a bit more difficult. You’d like to bring on Benny Feilhaber, who had a good first half against Venezuela but it’s not the right solution in that moment.”.

      As a spectacle this game was a dud but as a developmental exercise, leading up to these Cupcake games, JK made a couple of things very, very clear well before last night:

      1. He expected the team to be tired given the brutal camp and the Saturday-Wednesday format, similar to what you get in qualifying.

      2. He wanted a hostile environment for the team and the staff (including highly questionable officiating I guess).

      3. He spoke about wanting his players to learn about how to get very tired and then have to fight through it and still get a result.

      I would say he got his wish.

      I’ll bet he was happy Cameron got that funky red card as it put the guys under a lot of pressure.

      In the firestorm of criticism I’m seeing here people seem to forget this was a team playing their second game ever together and winning it, being down a man for nearly a half. Had this been a WC qualifier, would there be so much criticism? It’s pretty much the sort of sketchy circumstances the US will likely encounter when playing away.

      So last night’s result with a pickup B team looked okay to me. Should we meet Panama in WC qualifying which team will have a bigger upgrade in talent?

      As for tactics, while he seems to still be looking for his Jogi Loew, I would say JK is not concerned about tactics right now (typical ex star player, Tactics? We ain’t got no tactics! We don’t need no tactics! I don’t have to show you any stinking tactics!) choosing to focus on developing an attitude and a mindset more than anything else. He named Jones his captain ostensibly because the guy is a starter on a Champions league contender, which is true enough, but, love him or hate him, he has also been relentlessly aggressive these past two games, without getting red carded.

      It’s worth remembering that those tough, World Cup winning German teams JK played on had a strong streak of pragmatism in regards to the dark arts of the game. And that JK practically re-invented diving for the British audience. Contrary to what Wynalda thinks, winning is something JK knows all about.

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      • Posted by Gino on 2012/01/26 at 6:20 PM

        Lots of good points Martin. Maybe a little presumptuous but why not? I think you’re right about wanting to create a certain mindset. It’s amazing how a team can elevate their games and achievements when they believe they can do it.

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  11. Posted by Gregorio on 2012/01/26 at 5:47 PM

    Pfeh, thats my semi-educated take on the game. Glad I watched on galavision better commentary and very catchy for non-spanish speakers “Capt Germane”
    Anyway there is so much to comment on I don’t know where to begin and don’t want to be redudant to whats been stated already but I will add my soccer stream of consciousness in regards to the game. boonboree=Ugh, hos touch is like Ron bloomberg at first base (Old Yankee) Wondo was unlucky and has a knack for being in the right space but bereft of a partner & service. Shea it aint so, severely underwhelmed, like his 1st nat game. Capt Germane tries to much but fouls, pushes , shoves to get it back, he still depsite his faults exudes class,ex his pass to free Shea who dribbled it to the defender’s feat.
    Defenders= too much over the top balls allowed, I was getting nervous. If Blas didn’t miss a sitter, many would be here today grumbling even louder.
    GK- very good, I like Johnson’s athleticism, long goal kicks to ease presssure too, Although RImando saved the game early on.

    Ok now that I bored you all with my inane commentary, Another ugly 4-4-2, with 2 DMs, and forwards who can’t create or hold up the ball although I’d pair wondo withsomeone else. Don’t tell me thos crap about this was all planned about overcoming adversity. Bleh, Bleh.
    I guess this is really like watching spring trainning and really jonesing for the WC Qualifers, I’ll watch crap to get my fix, should’ve watched Top chef.

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  12. Posted by Gino on 2012/01/26 at 6:12 PM

    Another excellent post-game analysis by TSG (and many of the subsequent posts). This is why TSG is usually the first site I click on when logging on to the internet.

    I can’t comment too much about the game other than it’s lack of quality and one too many beers put me to sleep. I’ll agree with other posts above that viewing the Classico beforehand made it a lot more difficult to watch. However, it’s completely unfair to try to compare any USMNT game to Barca v Real Madrid.

    I’m usually a pessimist, but I took these past two games with a grain of salt. I’d like to believe Camp Cupcake was more about implementing Klinsmann’s gameplan than about results. The Venezuela home game was easier on the eyes than the away game to Panama. Nonetheless, we still came away with a couple of 1-0 victories and a better execution of his tactics. I’m no Klinsi cultist, but I’d like to think we’re on the right track.

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  13. Posted by Crow on 2012/01/26 at 6:48 PM

    I know TSG questioned how the USMNT would be “more fit” under Coach K than they were under Bob Bradley.

    Leander had this article on ESPN: http://espn.go.com/sports/soccer/story/_/id/7492608/jurgen-klinsmann-emphasis-fitness-training-lays-foundation-more-proactive-playing-style-leander-schaerlaeckens

    I will say I think yesterday I became a believer. The USA was down a man the whole 2nd half, playing on the road in relatively warm and humid conditions, and Panama tired first. Most of the American players looked like they could go another 30 minutes. I found that to be the most encouraging thing to take from the game.

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  14. Posted by Crow on 2012/01/26 at 7:21 PM

    One last thing- I hope in the future these winter camps focus more on “younger players”/”prospects” that actually have a future with the team. I know this year was very unusual with the U-23 camp, and Ream and John transferring, Gonzalez and Agudelo getting injured, but there were too many spaces taken up by dead weight.

    Parke, Larentowicz, Clark, and Evans among others have no future with the A team. Even at positions that are thin, I think I’ve seen enough of the Heath Pearce’s and Chris Wondolowski’s of the player pool. Just call in the whole U-23 team and let them have a real experience, especially with the Olympics coming up.

    I don’t know maybe my view is flawed but I couldn’t help but think that when watching the game last night.

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    • I think Wondolowski’s alright. He’s not a very well rounded player, but what he does do he does well. Wondolowski is a goal poacher and arguably one of the best pure finishers on the national team radar right now, but I, and I’m assuming JK, are asking for more than that from their forwards. IMO it’s a striker’s job to get goals not necessarily score them. Wondolowski’s great at scoring, but as a poacher he still needs the service, and there was a clear disconnect between the midfield and front line.

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  15. Posted by Jake Claro on 2012/01/26 at 9:54 PM

    A lot of great comments as usual here at TSG

    These were a tough two games to analyze, given an MLS player pool that was reduced even further with injuries to Agudelo and Beckerman. I think it’s easy to say that the soccer played against Venezuela was prettier than against Panama. I do think fatigue played a part, but also the tactical set-up made possession for the US in this second game more difficult, and with the skill on the field, players were unable to operate effectively in closed space.

    In fact, the same thing happened against Slovenia when the US went to 2 strikers. Though the attack improved, at least in terms of stretching the backline and opening up more straight forward probing runs, possession suffered a bit and the US was exposed more defensively. We haven’t seen, with either BB or JK, a one striker formation where the US possess and looks dangerous, though there were glimpses in my mind that others caught onto from the Venezuela game that seem to show Jurgen opening up the counter-attack along with an emphasis on possession.

    Bunbury was really really poor in this game. I think its actually unfair to Klinsmann to judge his tactical acumen for this game, because Bunbury was that bad. He just couldn’t keep the ball in any facet, and was equally inept in finding the right pass moving forward when he did have the ball at his foot.

    De La Garza was equally bad positionally. He was constantly drifting centrally, in part because that’s where his eyes and head were leading him–a indication of where he has played and where he wants to be–and as a result was giving up loads of space down the wing. Definitely looking forward to having a healthy Lichaj to supply depth at the fullback position moving forward.

    The Cameron red was harsh. Not sure if getting beat over the top was due to the intentionally high line or miscommunication between he Parkhurst, but he was generally good in recovering, was excellent getting his body onto inswinging crosses, and has proven himself to be an above average tackler and passer out of the back–so at least there are signs of depth emerging centrally. Getting two 1-0 victories with a b-squad, one in a very pragmatic way, I think meets or exceeds expectations from this camp and is promising as qualifying approaches.

    And that’s really what this camp was about for me. Developing depth, and getting the player pool acclimated to a new system and new expectations. I’m optimistic about what an extended camp with the first-teamers will produce–there’s a lot of offensive dynamism emerging–with speed–with a front of Dempsey, Donovan, Altidore, Johnson, and possibly Shea. Add in a healthy Holden, a big if I know at this point, and an in-form Bradley, and the US has a line-up that can possess, but also shift gears very quickly and cause havoc on the counter. The key is determining if our CBs are in it for the long haul, or if we need new blood, and when that new blood is going to come online. The same question hovers over Stevie C at right back, which is why I would love to see Lichaj and Chandler brought along together in a few games to see how their youth holds up over time, and determine whether or not Lichaj in particular is the heir apparent to Cherundolo.

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    • I think Lichaj’s staying out left…nothing we’ve seen from Loyd, Pearce, or anyone else looked as promising as Lichaj did last summer.

      You’re right about the CBs, though. There’s some amount of promising youth in many spots – keeper, fullback, central midfield, out on the wing (at least on the left), and at striker (remember, Big Jeezy’s only 22 still)…but not so much at centreback, in my mind. At least, there are glaring flaws with just about every candidate for the position.

      Also – and I know this got broached before camp – where the **** is Mixx?

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  16. Posted by Eric Betts on 2012/01/27 at 8:09 AM

    Regarding Sean Johnson’s aloofness, the wife was upset when he’d make a save or watch a shot go over the bar and then clap and encourage the back four. She’s convinced they need tough love. “Why isn’t he screaming at them?” she asked.

    Reply

    • Your wife is rather used to Timmy’s style. I prefer it as well, but to each his own. Young keeper, young defenders. A more veteran keeper might’ve been more willing to read them the riot act.

      Reply

      • Oddly enough there is a theory (I think espoused here) that Timmy’s screaming has been toned down a bit recently because it reinforces the Offense that they are getting the best of the defense rather than just galvanizing the back line.

        Moar Screaming = Defense getting beat.

        Interesting thought.

        Reply

  17. Posted by joe h on 2012/01/27 at 12:00 PM

    This was THE C+ TEAM, not the B team. Unless you’re counting by 18′s (then it’s a B team).

    The guys were tired, Shea sick, Bunbury made sure Wondo was useless as Wondo is not a speedster thus needs service to score/poach or hold. Wrong formation? I don’t agree except for the two up top. Bunbury is not good enough to help create an attack, I don’t watch his play regularly but hear he’s best with through balls and runs, the opposite of the possession style we’re going for.

    We were outplayed? Seeing as we used possession to steady ourselves for something like 75 minutes, I don’t see how you can say that. We played like ****, but I don’t think we were outplayed.

    Reply

  18. […] ›› More history – The US has played Panama once already in Jurgen Klinsmann’s reign. A 1-0 victory to close January 2012′s Cupcake Camp. Graham Zusi played the hero in that one with an early goal; Geoff Cameron was goat-ish with a red card on …. you guessed it, Blas Perez. For a review of that one, click here. […]

    Reply

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