Jozy Altidore’s bicycle kick was the only goal in a pretty meh 1-0 win for the United States Men’s National Team over Panama at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City. Altidore’s second-half strike was a welcome oasis in a desert of entertaining soccer but the important thing is that Gregg Berhalter rested his starters, still got the win to finish atop Group D, and can now focus on the Gold Cup quarterfinals.
The U.S. improved to 13-1-6 in the all-time series against Los Canaleros, but it wasn’t a great game.
With the USMNT already through to the knockout stages, Berhalter heavily rotated his squad, changing out all 11 spots. Sean Johnson started in goal behind a back line of Daniel Lovitz, Matt Miazga, Omar Gonzalez, and Reggie Cannon. The midfield trio was Wil Trapp, Cristian Roldan, and Djordje Mihailovic under a front line of Jonathan Lewis, Altidore, and Jordan Morris.
It's about that time‼️⏰— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) June 26, 2019
Here is your #GoldCup2019 starting XI to take on !
Lineup Notes : https://t.co/suYDCKSIIz pic.twitter.com/bGJNBZbIS2
It was a pretty tame opening 15 minutes with neither team getting much of a clear-cut chance, despite each getting a few set pieces. The U.S. finally got a decent opportunity in the 16th minute when Morris stole the ball in the attacking third just after a U.S. turnover and fed the ball to Altidore on the right. He fizzed a shot that curved wide of the far post.
Altidore forced a diving save in the 21st minute. Roldan took a through ball from Cannon and sent a quick cross to Altidore, who fired a left-footed effort that José Calderón went down to deny, keeping the game scoreless.
Looking for more opportunities like this in the 2nd half‼️ pic.twitter.com/09yInVRT3X— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) June 27, 2019
Panama’s best chance may have been in the 37th minute. Los Canaleros tried to break through when Omar Browne played a ball into the area but a diving header attempt from José Luis Rodríguez was just beyond reach and Johnson collected. After a failed break the other way, Panama played in to José Fajarado but he fired wide of goal after beating Gonzalez.
That was about it for a rather pedestrian half of soccer for both teams. Lewis fizzed either a bad shot or a cross to no one through the box in first-half stoppage time and the whistle mercifully went on a poor, and scoreless, half of ugly soccer. The USMNT had 63% of the possession but managed only four shots, getting one on goal.
The second half started pretty much like the first, with neither team accomplishing much. Lewis finally started to show signs of life in the 58th minute, first fizzing a dangerous cross into the six, only to see it knocked away by Harold Cummings. Seconds later he got on the ball at the top of the area but had his shot blocked.
Panama’s first half chance of the second half came on an Omar Browne shot from distance, but he lashed it well wide of goal in the 63rd minute.
The USMNT finally broke the deadlock on a corner kick. Mihailovic drove in a cross that Miazga headed back across the box to Altidore, who sent an acrobatic bicycle kick into the net to make it 1-0 in the 66th minute. It was his 42nd international goal and his first since his brace in Orlando in World Cup qualifying in October of 2017 — also against Panama.
JOZY ALTIDORE WITH THE BICYCLE KICK!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 27, 2019
He scores his 42nd international goal and puts the USMNT out in front pic.twitter.com/CVuFexT8Wj
Altidore tried to make it a brace in the 75th minute but sent a free kick over the goal from just outside the area. Moments later, Browne sent another long-range effort wide of goal for Panama in an attempt to equalize.
A couple of half chances for each team closed out the game and the U.S. finished a perfect 3-0-0 in Group D, out-scoring its opponents, 11-0.
The USMNT will appear in the quarterfinals on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET against Curacao, the surprise runner-up in Group C. That game will take place at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.