By Jared Young (@jaredeyoung)
A desperate Panama team did enough to draw the United States 1-1, and earn the point they absolutely needed to have a hope of advancing to the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup. The USMNT, perhaps distracted by the heat and a game that meant little, woke up in the second half enough to salvage their result and fend off the critics. Panama must now wait to see if they advance while the U.S. awaits the identity of their opponent.
Sitting back and taking it easy
After coming out and trying to maintain possession for the first 15 minutes, the U.S. ceded the ball the rest of the way. Multiple players talked about the heat after the game. Given the U.S. had little to play for it makes sense that they may not take an aggressive approach to the game. After the opening push Panama had 56% possession and turned that into a shot advantage of 13-8. The U.S. is no stranger to being outshot. For the tournament so far they have attempted just 20 shots while their opponents have attempted 50. A 29% TSR ratio does not usually accompany an undefeated tournament team but this United States team is used to giving up the shot advantage. They make it up with shot quality, better finishing and great goalkeeping.
In this match it was really only the goalkeeping that kept them competitive. The U.S. lost the shots on target advantage 7 to 3 but were fortunate that Brad Guzan grabbed 6 saves. Guzan now has a save rate of 86% in the tournament and has shown why he is the #1 keeper for Jurgen Klinsmann.
Speaking of our man Klinsmann, he continues to make significant changes to the lineup that ultimately inhibit the cohesiveness of the team. He reverted back to the 4-4-2 diamond formation for this match, a goal of which is to get his prized fullbacks involved in the offense, but they were never able to make their mark. As an example, the fullback pairing of Fabian Johnson and Timmy Chandler attempted 73 passes, while the U.S. center back pairing attempted 105. Klinsmann’s team continued to work the middle of the field as they got to the midfield. The central midfield combination of Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman attempted 80 passes completing 86%. The midfield shuttlers out wide attempted a combined 57 passes. The middle four deep players passed the ball 38% more often than the wide players. But as the team approached the final third is when they primarily went wide. They attempted an uncharacteristically high 20 crosses, which is their highest amount since the debacle at the Republic of Ireland. The performance was simply one that left everyone wondering and wanting.
Still, you get the feeling the U.S. was cruising and tinkering during the Group stage, but now understand there is another gear required over the next week and a half. The U.S. should have a relatively easy contest this coming Saturday and we’ll be able to see if the intensity and quality of play improves.