The USMNT put out a pretty modest performance in a 1-1 draw against Panama in a game in which both teams seemed content with a draw. The match at Nissan Stadium, which broke Tenessee’s attendance record for a soccer game with a crowd of 47,622, was built up as game that could decide the winner of Gold Cup Group B — as long as the winning team can do what it’s supposed to do against Nicaragua and Martinique.
Both teams seemed aware of that fact, but a loss would all but eliminate the losing team from winning the group.
The USMNT and Panama played very cautiously in a fairly uneventful first half. The game opened up after Dom Dwyer put the U.S. ahead early in the second half, only for Panama to tie it up 10 minutes later, and, just like the two countries’ last three meetings, the game ended 1-1.
Bruce Arena sent out a very similar lineup to the one he chose to start against Ghana, only dropping Paul Arriola and Matt Hedges, while adding Alejandro Bedoya and Omar Gonzalez, and also keeping the 4-2-3-1 formation. Brad Guzan started in goal along with a back line consisting of (left to right) Jorge Villafaña, Matt Besler, González, and Graham Zusi. Dax McCarty and Kellyn Acosta sat deep in midfield with Kellyn Rowe, Joe Corona, and Bedoya in front of them, making up the attacking midfield. The USMNT’s latest breakout star, Dwyer, started up top.
The Americans dominated the first 30 minutes of the game, but weren’t able to squeeze out any great chances. Perhaps their best chance came five minutes in, when Rowe cut in from the left wing and fired a shot which forced an easy save by José Calderón. After that chance, the U.S. kept the bulk of possession, but the midfield failed to bypass an organized Panama defense.
The game really looked like it could use some signature Christian Pulisic magic to open it up, but we learned today that Corona is no Pulisic. One might wonder if the team could have performed better with a more creative force playing in the central attacking mid spot, like Sacha Kljestan or Benny Feilhaber, and if buildup problems continue, then the spotlight will be on Bruce Arena to show that the guys he picked were the
best second best he could select for the job.
Villafaña had many good runs down the left side, and in the 26th minute one of them led to a Rowe shot which forced another save by Calderón. Panama’s best chance of the half came a minute later when Miguel Camargo took on Zusi one on one and fired a shot to the left of Guzan’s goal. It took a diving save from Guzan and his fingertips to push the ball just outside of the post, or else it might have been 1-0.
For about the last 10 minutes of the half, Panama began to control most of the ball, but just like their American adversaries, nothing came out of it. While the first half was a mostly even affair, the second half was a completely different story where momentum switched hands between the two sides multiple times before both seemed to kind of settle down a bit.
The momentum was at first with the Yanks, as they scored just five minutes after the restart. After some nifty work on the wing, Rowe sent in a low cross to Dwyer, who deftly placed his shot to the back post for the first goal of the game.
After the goal, Panama went on an attacking surge filled with chances, including one which forced an amazing reaction save from Guzan. The ball then fell to Ismael Díaz, who missed an open goal at point-blank range. The Panamanians didn’t have too much to mourn about though, as they equalized five minutes later off a Camargo shot which snuck under Guzan’s outstretched arm.
The U.S. then went on a surge of its own, creating chance after chance, but none of them were clear cut as Los Canaleros did a great job at restricting space in the box. The two teams made several attacking changes, but neither team would take the risks needed to change the scoreline, because the reward was not valuable enough, with both teams believing they will go on to the next round pretty comfortably. Therefore the game petered out to another 1-1 draw.
Next up for the USMNT is a Gold Cup match against Martinique in Tampa on Wednesday, July 12 at 9 p.m.