Snap Judgements: USA vs. Panama

The US chased the game from the opening whistle....

The US falls to Panama in Game 2 of the Group Stage. It’s the first loss ever for the States in the Group Stage of the Gold Cup. The game was a fascinating tactical battle.

• Panama was excellent. The US failed to execute and seemed ill-prepared.

So many places to begin in this one.

Valdés in his playing days.

First, credit to Panama. Head coach Julio César Dely Valdés is no mug. The one-time player at La Liga’s Malaga and Ligue One’s Paris Saint-Germaine (and one time assistant at Malaga) countered what the Americans would do absolutely exquisitely with his game plan.

Realizing the Yanks would go 4-2-2-2 and that Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey would both compress in and get up the pitch,Valdés knew he would have space in midfield on the counter. With savvy strikers Luis Tejada and Blas Perez facing the inexperienced pairing of Goodson and Ream, Panama went inside-outside-inside and often found the feet of their top duo in stride.

The Americans, on the other hand, seemed confused. Positionally, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones weren’t sure how far to come up or how deep to sit. The struggle left both of them frequently in the dreaded “No Man’s Land.”

Consequently, that led to the second major problem for the States, denying service.

Coach Bob Bradley had to have known his young centerbacks would be tested on the day and the primary “three-point arc” defenders of Steve Cherundolo, Carlos Bocanegra (though less so than the others), Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley conceded easy entry passes–through balls, corner balls, crosses–way too often.

Coupled with the opponent’s strategy to primarily go at Tim Ream this put the Yanks’ defense under intense bursts of pressure. The Yanks wilted and–snap–trailed 2-0.

US fans may complain about Bob Bradley’s team selection and his ability to coerce solid and consistent efforts out of his team, but his offensive game plan when in possession seemed sound today, if poorly executed.

The US attacked Panama's vulnerable side down their left flank in the first primarily through Clint Dempsey. Landon Donovan (highlighted) almost by default had little room to operate and couldn't find the attack except in transition.

The first half saw Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey attack the vulnerable right side of the Panamanian defense. There were solid efforts if not solid opportunities in the early going.

Once this was recognized by the Panamanians they drifted a midfielder over to help and the Yanks tried to switch field to find Landon Donovan and Juan Agudelo on the right.

The main challenges for the Yanks in attack were their forwards–chiefly Jozy Altidore–seemed at a loss for where to move offball and many times seemed to take up the same positions with Clint Dempsey who floated centrally quite a bit. That and the Yanks rate of play was entirely too slow to capitalize when any advantage was created.

The Yanks were thoroughly beaten through better execution and an acknowledgement of the opponent at how to break them down.

• Both Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore needed more “something .”

We wrote the following about Donovan in our USA vs Panama preview:

Donovan on the interior sometimes gets lost in games like this and forces the US to rely on Clint Dempsey.

The same again happened this evening as the play ran through Dempsey. Donovan always seems to struggle without space, but tonight the States need him to make himself available and threaten, with or without the ball and that just didn’t happen.

Posed this question on Jozy Altidore in our preview:

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.

Again, a negative answer to this one. Altidore often seemed lost on where to move on the evening, rarely initiated space or won balls when he did. He did have one sublime touch and cross that Chris Wondolowski should have finished, but that movement occurred only after play opened up.

Beyond this, it was Altidore who failed to mark his man on the first Panama goal and the burly forward consistently squawked to the refs and opponents, slowing down an attack that needed pace desperately.

• The Yanks suffered greatly from lack of true wingers, especially on the left.

In the 2nd half Donovan hugged the left touchline to create width, but the Yanks still had some challenges with no natural footer save Boca on that side.

Bob Bradley teams typically forgo true wingers, relying on Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan to provide width from their pseudo-mifield positions.

That strategy today left the Yanks vulnerable on the counter and a few Tim Howard saves or defensive sticks from really opening the floodgates.

Additionally–while the States became most successful with the threat of Donovan on the left in the 2nd half–the attack was already comprised because–with the absence of lefties able to really drive the ball wide or round the corner, Panama’s defense was able to recover a little bit more easily.

The width created chances for the Yanks, but if opposing coaches must have noted the huge struggles the Yanks had getting to the corner flag on the left and of the advancing elder statesman Carlos Bocanegra in possession.

We may want to rename this bullet, the Brad Davis or Bobby Convey bullet.

• The changing of the guard at centerback is going to take some time.

First, neither Clarence Goodson or Tim Ream had a good game this evening. For US fans who wanted a more youthful centerback pairing, tonight bore witness to the growing pains.

Tim Ream was consistently targeted by the Panamanians and if not for an errant shot Clarence Goodson would have been beat 1-vs-1 by Luis Tejada in the first half for a 3-0 lead.

The pair of course is not helped when service lanes are not shut down ahead of them.

Bob Bradley will have quite a conundrum for Game 3 against Guadeloupe. And given that the US coach will probably stick with both, you’ll hear the word “moxie” being bantered around surrounding their names in the coming days.

• Why does it take a back-to-wall situation for the US to seize the initiative?

An age old question here under Bob Bradley. And I don’t have an answer for you.

Short passes

» A solid effort from Sacha Kljestan who might just find himself in the starting central midfield discussion now with Jermaine Jones uneven play.

» Chris Wondolowski tonight did not reward Bob Bradley’s selection over the more experienced Herculez Gomez. He had some nice touches, but he was brought into to hit pay dirt and tonight he only shoveled it around.

» Juan Agudelo showed his youth today, getting flummoxed in tight quarters, but he still worked hard and tried to take on defenders.

» Will Jermaine Jones’ shirt throwing incident provoke a response from Bob Bradley?

» Ale Bedoya impressive in action–needs to show that final ball though to take the next step.

» From the “my arms hurts from patting me on my back” files, finally nailed a preview, including this nugget:

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.

58 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by FulhamPete on 2011/06/12 at 12:27 AM

    Although the game was lost in the first half, it certainly could have been won in the second. Wondoh! was brought in because he was “in form”. BS. He choked at his only expected job: punch in a sitter. I think even Findley would have put THAT one in…assuming he wasn’t already tracking back or watching from the corner.

    I’d like to see Bob start Dempsey & Jozy up top, then bring Agudelo in as an energy boost up top. Put Bedoya in Dempsey’s spot, and keep MB90 & JJ with Sasha (who has impressed me in the last three games) in yellow card reserve. I actually like the back line of CB-TR-CG-SC. I think we need to cultivate this, and they’ll have some knocks along the way, so don’t get panties in a bunch.

    My only question, then, is: What the hell is Bob doing during camp if not preparing our team for the opponents in the group stage? We looked clueless and unmotivated. I’ve been a Bobbo defender in the past, but the performances of this team against Spain and Panama stink of apathy, and THAT’S on the coach.

    I feel sorry for the non-dressers. Tuesday is a must win, and we can’t rest the starters.


  2. Posted by Mike A on 2011/06/12 at 12:56 AM

    Basically, in the end it comes down to a lack of effort. How does a team come out firing on all cylinders against Canada and the regress to the point of circa 1992 USMNT…in the span of 4 days? Clearly this team i.e. players and coaches are not held accountable for their mistakes or lack of effort, possibly because there is no one to take their spot, but more likely because they the team has no accountability. The only spark I saw was from fringe players like Bedoya and Kljestian, because they know their spot is on the line if they do not give the effort. I cannot wait until Stuart Holden is healthy, you know he will give it all for 90+ minutes.

    Its time to change the 4-4-2, we do not have the parts to make it work like Confed Cup ’09, BB clearly brought all the wrong strikers outside of Agudelo. I expect to see a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 with possibly an Adu sighting, playing the AM position? Also Lichaj or Bornstein at LB with Boca moved back to center so Tim Ream can observe after his poor outing.

    Until the never say die attitude that we apparently left in South Africa returns, this team is destined for failure.

    Vent session over.


    • Posted by Alex on 2011/06/12 at 9:45 AM

      Those are basically the things I have been BEGGING for from Bob and our player pool calls for it.

      1. 4-3-3 with license to the CAM. Dempsey on the left, Donovan on the right, Altidore striker. Give Bedoya (I am more of a convert with his club form, and see that every time he has played internationally, Bob has played him out of position as some kind of pacey, crossing winger rather than a central midfielder) should have the keys to the car as CAM. Jones and Bradley in the center with Jones further back and Bradley as the linker/crashing into the box MF. With Dempsey and Donovan as forwards, as well, they will have more space to move.

      2. Fullbacks who can provide WIDTH! We are crying out for pacey FBs. These days, the best defense on the flank calls for FBs who can attack and press the opposing wingers back. Panama exploited us with this. We need Chandler and Convey so badly, with their pace and crossing, and yet we are stuck with methodical and highly defensive fullbacks that concede space rather than wingbacks that press up the flanks.


  3. Posted by Kit on 2011/06/12 at 1:43 AM

    You know, while watching the U.S.’ past four games I realized how much I miss Demarcus Beasley. We need him back!


  4. Posted by Nelsonaoatl on 2011/06/12 at 2:14 AM

    I’m running for bob bradleys position. any doubters play me in FIFA or winning 11. i Will never give up my high ground until the battle is over. I’m flexible. I can change plans in a minute. I play for fun, for the US, the game, and the world. this is a warning call. I will ascend from roots levels to mls and USMNT whether it is through coaching being a physio or a consultant. never say die. if your dead, rezarect…

    that’s my rant. 2014 WC. be there.


  5. Posted by Brian on 2011/06/12 at 2:48 AM

    Is this effing Deja Vu or what? Why the hell is it that we always concede early and then have a mad scramble the rest of the game to get back in it? Is it laziness of the players? Is it Bob Bradley? Whatever the hell it is it needs to be fixed because this crap cannot keep happening. I bet there are probably more games in the past 2-3 years in which we concede early and have to race to get back in the game than I can count on my two hands. Let’s see: yesterday against Panama, Ghana in the World Cup, Slovenia in the World Cup, England in the World Cup,Costa Rica at RFK, Honduras at Soldier Field, Costa Rica at Saprissa, and El Salvador at Estadio Cuscatlán. Well I guess that’s not more than 10, but it shows a pattern.

    Not sure why this is a common thing that plagues our national team, but it’s not good. I’m typically not a “Fire Bob Bradley” kinda guy, because I think it’s stupid to do something like that unless you have a good replacement in mind, and I really can’t think of anyone (besides Juergen), but if we cannot get out the group or if we lose in the quarterfinal round then Bob needs to be fired. If that happens I couldn’t care less if they had a good successor in mind at the time. Better to get it done early in the cycle, then to wait til the end of it.

    I’m starting to feel like a fool for prematurely buying tickets to the Gold Cup Final. Is there a way I can sell them if the US doesn’t make it? I bought them off ticketmaster and printed them out at home.


  6. Posted by Nelsonaoatl on 2011/06/12 at 2:55 AM

    I’m running.

    that’s my rant. 2014 WC. be there.

    it’s Deja vu all ova again…

    get with the times or get run ova


  7. What I don’t understand is that the USA defeated Canada with the same side. I would expect both the USA and Canada to deal with Panama quite handily. This creates a cognitive dissonance. I am more inclined to believe that the USA played poorly as opposed to the idea that Panama has suddenly joined USA, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and Honduras at the top of the CONCACAF food chain.

    You didn’t once mention Panama’s disgusting use of gamesmanship to control the flow of the game. Nor did you mention the impact of some of the referee’s bizarre and highly dubious decisions. Perhaps the USA team should fall down and cry out in pain more frequently. It worked in spades for Panama.

    I wonder if Jones maybe isn’t the best fit with this group. Ream needs a lengthy break from this level of play to properly consider his rash actions that led to the penalty kick.

    This type of result is the sort that makes a laughingstock out of the USA team. We barely get respect from other footballing nations as it is. This was a dark day for US Soccer and the senior men’s national team program.


  8. Posted by Chad on 2011/06/12 at 3:48 AM

    1. I don’t get the Jozy criticism after this one. Saw him tracking back on D quite a bit. He should have had 2nd assist of Gold Cup to tie the game. And not sure it was his fault that he and Demps were often in same spot. After the last few friendlies all I heard was that Agudelo was better than Jozy. JA did look better at the time but that was an awfully small sample set. Jozy was not the issue here.

    2. I love his passing and want him to succeed, but Ream was dreadful. He won’t start v Guadalupe. Boca will move inside. Ream is not physical enough and gets beat on over the top balls. Of course, agree with TSG that CMs need to choke off service, but better defenders like Demerit would scratch and claw to slow down the forward. Again, just not physically strong enough and weak in the air.

    3. The big question seems to be Why does the US need to go down a goal before it picks up the pace and responds. This forum is as good a place as any to throw put ideas, so here’s mine. Coach BB and son are 2 of the most intense guys you will ever see outside of an 80’s WWF ringside interview. It is a competitive advantage for them. But you can’t always be more intense than the other team. That well dries up sometimes and you need to win with better talent. Sports analogy: look at how the Jets used not only a great gameplan to beat the Patriots in the playoffs last season, but Ryan had them emotionally ready to do anything to win. In their next game, however, the Jets just didn’t have it. While we can manufacture an insane intensity for Spain and Brazil at the Confed Cup and for every game at the WC, a Saturday night in Tampa v Panama in front of 27,000 just doesn’t get you there. But i guess that even at the WC the US turned it on after giving up a goal. We just seem to need something to give an adrenaline rush in order to push the pace the way we want.

    4. Cherundolo’s crossing was missing last night.

    5. Very interested to see fallout from Jones shirt toss. Will BB give him a break b/c of the emotion or sit him?

    6. I really like Bob Bradley’s determination, will to win and the occasional tactical and roster surprises that keep even TSG from completely figuring him out. But this issue of always having to be physically better than the opponent is a big one and reminds me of TSG’s complaint about Mike Bradley’s over-reliance on his physicality.


    • Posted by John Henry on 2011/06/12 at 5:14 AM

      I might be completely wrong, but the way I see it (to address #1), Jozy is playing in the wrong position and looks terrible doing it. That is, as a hold-up center forward. Jozy has almost none of the skills that work for that role. He can’t win balls in the air (worse than Ream in the air). His lead foot can’t consistently trap and control balls in tight areas. His passing in general is just not precise enough to distribute with his back to goal.

      Jozy looks good coming outside in facing defenders. Although physically he doesn’t look like it, in my opinion he’d offer so much more to the team as something of a winger.

      Examples: last night’s almost assist came from Jozy making an overlapping run on the wing (past donovan).

      That play was almost identical to the game-winning Algeria goal.

      His excellent run that burned Carragher in the WC came down the left wing and then cut in up the baseline.

      The assist for the goal against Canada was also similar: jozy out on the wing to cross it in.

      I think I could go on.

      Very offense-minded formation:

      Landon – Wondo – Jozy
      —— Demspey ——
      Jones/Edu —— Bradley
      —— Back Four —–


      • Posted by Alex on 2011/06/12 at 9:57 AM

        That is actually a common criticism of Jozy. If you remember his days at RBNY, his goals we nearly identical in that sequences almost without fail began from wide positions from which he’d cut in.

        Here’s a little highlight reel. Notice the runs and dribbling patterns:

        …cool flamenco jams on the highlight reel as well.

        It’s just a shame really. I have thought for a while, and still do, that our current player pool calls for a 4-3-3 (barring Bob’s horrendous player selections and positioning in anything other than our 4-2-2-2), but we lacking that killer hold-up striker. I was hoping Teal would be in the current squad to at least try it out if we were already qualified after the Panama game, but he wasn’t even called in and we managed to throw the Panama game.


        • Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 10:03 AM

          I agree with this. Teal has pretty good aerial skills and Agudelo’s aren’t bad either. Another possibility may be Danny Mwanga, though that’s citizenship-dependent.


    • Posted by Soccernst on 2011/06/12 at 6:41 AM

      JA not the best shorthand with our crop of forwards 🙂


    • Posted by Jon on 2011/06/12 at 7:04 AM

      Not sure which game you watched but Dolo’s crossing WAS the attack. Seemed to be the only thread of options left, cross a hopeful ball into the box and hope the US height advantage will dominate. It did once on a corner, but Panama had answers, and we had no adjustments. Donovan and Mikey B seemed flat. Boco’s lack of speed was way exposed and eliminated any options on the left…..which brings me back to Dolo. HE was the offense.

      As for Jones throwing his shirt, Thank God someone had emotions. Need more of that, not less. Should be padded on the ass and sent back out next game, with Coach Sweatpants yelling, “show that Tiger Blood you winner.!


      • Posted by Alex on 2011/06/12 at 10:01 AM

        Not a nativist comment in the least, but it’s crazy to think the only player on the field to show that passion is a guy who didn’t even grow up in the States. I think Bob’s nearly catatonic state and consistent boilerplate responses to either great wins or terrible losses has rubbed off too much on the players. We need to come out ANGRY against Guadeloupe and absolutely slaughter them.


    • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/13 at 6:55 AM

      Jozy blew the mark on the first goal. Let his man walk right on by. So he may be tracking back but he’s not very effective at it. This isn’t little league, effort doesn’t count it’s all execution.

      He then proceeded to be average the rest of the way. Throw in the fact that he’s not a hold up striker even though he’s big (not his fault, shouldn’t be asked to do something he can’t) and then he drifts wide interfering with Deuce drifting in. I think criticism of him is fair.


  9. Posted by Plushtoy on 2011/06/12 at 5:24 AM

    Snap judgements are right on for this one. Especially, “Panama was excellent!”. Their relentless attacking from every position, overcommitting to each ball and general kick ass attitude made US look frightened. Remember when we used to play like that? When we didn’t expect to win but just wanted to prove we could play? I didn’t see us playing, it looked like drudgery. Where is the joy? The magic? The bliss of being allowed to play a game on this type of stage? Could blame the coach but in general I think Bradley gets that we play better when are having fun. I could blame the selection but for injuries, that was close to my starting 11. I hope we are able to smile on Tuesday and let it flow cuz sometimes you just get beat. the best revenge is to never let it happen like that again.


  10. Posted by Brian on 2011/06/12 at 6:26 AM

    I don’t think the Jones shirt though is that big of a deal. Hell it was nice to some effin passion out of somebody! Jones was having a pretty good game I felt. Bad call on his yellow card. Is it not ok for a guy to get a little pissed because he wants to stay in the game?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/12 at 6:31 AM

      I agree with you. Bob Bradley just is a stickler for those things sometimes. Lots of rules around his parts.


      • Posted by FulhamPete on 2011/06/12 at 7:35 AM

        I have lots of rules around MY parts, too!


      • Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 9:05 AM

        I don’t think so. The biggest display of petulance I’ve ever seen was Clint Dempsey’s against Brazil in the group stage of the Confederations Cup, where he decided to goof off in the final ~15 minutes. Does anyone remember this? Dempsey decided to bust out every trick he knew–he was bunny-hopping, using rabonas, etc. Anyway, we know the rest of the story. Doubt Bradley benches Jones over this. He might switch Jones for Kljestan because Sacha’s in better form, but that’s another story entirely.

        (Here’s video of the Dempsey stuff, by the way:


      • Posted by Alex on 2011/06/12 at 10:03 AM

        Such a stickler that he refuses to swallow his pride to call in out best attacking option on the left flank… Bobby Convey.


    • Posted by Jon on 2011/06/12 at 6:45 AM

      I agree. Jones worked his tail off and looks to spread the field by spraying passes. Thank you Jones for switching fields. Love his physical play. US so needs that. Mikey B was MIA, except for the header.

      Was it just me or was Boca’s exposed for his lack of speed outside? Couldnt come up and had a hard time maintaning the side. But his ball watching was spot on.


    • Posted by SpumantiJones on 2011/06/12 at 3:34 PM

      Brian, could not agree with you more. Jones had a solid game out there, especially considering MB was very poor in the midfield as his partner. JJ had to pull the load for both himself & MB. MB had a nice header to flick on to CG’s goal, but was pretty useless otherwise: poor tackling, poor spacing on the field, dithering touches on the ball before releasing neutral passes, and failing to finish off of Wondo’s pass to tie it late.

      Overall, IMO we looked a bit tired throughout the match from Timmy to Juan Agudelo. Concerned about tight turnaround for Tuesday, but we should pull it through.


  11. Posted by Jake C on 2011/06/12 at 6:43 AM

    A couple of things.

    1) I don’t blame Goodson or Ream for how much the US got bossed by Panama’s attack. The midfield was nowhere to be found when they were in possession (although Sacha helped the situation).

    2) I was amazed at how many touches the USA had to take when they were on the ball. There was no sense of when and where to distribute, and the rate of play was incredibly slow as a result (save for a couple of instances like the excellent passing play that led to Bradley’s shot just wide of the post). The first observation there was that Panama had a good game plan. The second is that the US didn’t. That’s down to coaching for me. One and two touch soccer isn’t an innate talent that players have; it has to be coached as part of a system, and once Bradley’s one dimensional plan was figured out, there was no hope for the US.


    • Posted by Alex on 2011/06/12 at 10:11 AM

      Seems sometimes like Bob just sends out a lineup and expects passes and play to just arrive out of static and nothingness. There is no anticipation, no ingenuity within a formation, and very little regard for how to counteract and opposing defense without just straight substitutions or formation changes (insert speedy striker for target striker, add player to midfield) rather than subtlety or adjustment in triangle positions.


  12. Posted by jb on 2011/06/12 at 7:09 AM

    I think the biggest problem with our team is really simple. We just don’t have anyone who can PUT THE DAMN BALL IN THE NET. I mean,defensive lapses are inevitable. We can’t expect clean sheets, we are going to be scored on from time to time, and the new defenders will make mistakes as they learn at the highest level. We have to be able to score goals, and not just from set pieces. We seem to have begun to develop some nice buildups, mostly behind Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley, and Altidore. But these are all primarily creators. We need FINISHERS. I could have pulled my hair out at Wondo’s miss of a point blank volley. Jozy’s struggles in front of goal is documented, and Agudelo is too green. Maybe Gomez or Buddle would be better, but they’ve never really proven it. Dempsey is, by far, the closest thing we have to this, but if he is moved up front we will not have his creativity from midfield which we need also. It’s a serious problem and I dont envy Bradley the decision.

    And just a quick word on Panama. I know they are ranked below the top 50 and not supposed to be any good, etc. They played great last night. Their forwards were fast, physical, and nuisances. They had speed to burn up our flanks. Most of all, their defense was superb. Even on the set pieces (minus the Goodson goal) they really stood us up. Can’t remember their bruiser of a CB name, but I would have given him the game ball.


    • Posted by Pancho on 2011/06/12 at 8:08 AM

      Baloy was the CB for Panama and the comments on the ‘US height advantage’ makes me giggle nervously….what height advantage? “Patting yourself on the back” for your call? We didn’t have the physical advantage, we were the dimunitive team in this game! We were out-muscled, out-hustled all night. This was a game for GOOCH! A guy who will throw his physique around. Ream was flat out terrible, terrible. His inabiility to deal with the physicality was evident in the last game,(remember Gerba owning him when he came on?), this game just had the 4-4-2 workingg against him rather thna the 4-2-3-1 that Canada played.
      By the way on the goal,

      This game begged for a Gooch Boca pairing and because he is what I have on the bench, a Johnny B left back to deal with the speed of the wings.

      Having said that, I wouldn’t do it against Guadelope. Ream maybe enough, but coach Bradley had better have learned his lesson, against big physical teams, you don’t start Ream and Goodson…you need a little more meat on them bones.

      BTW Jones was steller in his play, go see how many balls he won in the 1st half. Sacha had more success going forward, but that was because the U.S was LOSING and had to get forward. Jones covered a lot of ground having played so far back in a sweeper role after the loss of confidence in the inept CB pairing.


      • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/13 at 7:03 AM

        Gooch would have been abused by the strikers. They have size and skill. Gooch can’t turn quickly enough to deal with skill and has proven recently that he’s done as an international center back. Gooch wouldnt’ have helped with being outhustled as you mentioned, he can’t hustle anymore because he doesn’t trust his knee. He hangs back and doesn’t step up to challenge anyone.


  13. Posted by Steve Trittschuh on 2011/06/12 at 7:11 AM

    Ream needs to be held accountable for the silly and unnecessary foul he committed that caused the penalty. I don’t think he was playing very well with the Red Bulls before the Gold Cup. His distribution wasn’t very good either. He’s still very much a work in progress. This was a Bob Bradley “coach’s son” pick.

    Would have preferred Zak Whitbread or even Nat Borchers.


  14. Posted by Ufficio on 2011/06/12 at 8:14 AM

    Guadeloupe has played almost all of the last 135 minutes of the Gold Cup down a man. They’ve scored twice and conceded twice in that span. Both conceded goals were on penalties, and at least one of those was on a call that was specious at best.

    There’s a very real possibility that we’ll fail to get out of this group. There’s an even bigger possibility that we’ll book a quarterfinal date with Mexico.


    • Posted by Crotalus on 2011/06/12 at 8:50 AM

      Well yes, anything’s possible. None of that is very likely though, let’s be honest.


      • Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 9:02 AM

        Not likely, but plausible. Basically, if the U.S. loses to Guadeloupe, it may get in trouble. (Fortunately for us, Mexico and Costa Rica–two competently-coached teams–took care of business and destroyed El Salvador’s goal differential.)


        • Posted by Crotalus on 2011/06/12 at 9:50 AM

          Let’s not dwell on that until it happens. Let’s have our boys go out and crush some islanders and put all this talk to bed.


        • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/06/12 at 10:22 AM

          No – Costa Rica tied El Salvador, so they’re sitting on a point with a game against Cuba. Guatemala also has a point and is playing Grenada. We should hope Cuba can get a result against El Salvador, but I have to think El Salvador will be favored. Guatemala will likely take care of business against Grenada. So there’s a good chance the third-place finishers in groups A and B will end up with four points.

          So the question is, what are our chances of losing to Guadeloupe? I would put them in the low single-digit percentage points, but I would have said the same of Panama*.

          If we lose by a goal to Guadeloupe, Panama could still (preempitvely) save us by beating Canada. So basically everything would have to go wrong, and if one wants to argue that there’s less than a 1% of us not going through, I wouldn’t dispute that too fervently.

          However, going through as the third-place team can happen in a few different ways – the most likely being Canada beating Panama and us tying Guadeloupe. I don’t think putting the chances of that happening at 15% or so is too outlandish.

          *Side issue: Admittedly, it’s an open question as to whether that assessment was really that far off. We did have more shots, more shots on goal, more scoring chances and more possession. They got a penalty on a completely unnecessary foul where the ball was already rolling out of the box, we were denied and yellow-carded on what should have been a clear penalty. That’s not just homerism: the Univision announcers agreed with those assessments. A guy who’s done nothing but put the ball in the back of the net for the last year and a half blew a chance that I could’ve finished, etc, etc.

          If that game is played 20 times, I wouldn’t be surprised if Panama only wins once. On the other hand, I’m not going to be totally shocked if we lose to Guadeloupe on Tuesday, especially given how they’ve performed in this group playing with 10 men.


  15. Posted by EFG on 2011/06/12 at 8:40 AM

    I thought last night’s match screamed for Torres or Feilhaber and I’m sure I’m not the only one.


  16. Posted by Haterade on 2011/06/12 at 8:48 AM

    Why do I sense that our sides are getting Capelloed? (Playing key players in ways that both give them too much credit and leave them tactically starved)


  17. Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 8:59 AM

    The thing about blaming the centerback pairing–which is mostly justified–is that no centerback pairing has consistently looked good for Bradley. Look at the U.S.’ s record under Bradley–if he calls up his first-choice group, the U.S. typically gives up lots of goals. I don’t think this is a problem of coming out flat as people have often said; I think it’s a problem of just being bad at defending. Now, Bradley has tried out many different personnel, many of them with decent records in Europe, and yet they keep on giving up goals. There’s an inference to draw here.


    • Posted by Steve Trittschuh on 2011/06/12 at 9:07 AM

      I think you’re right in a sense. The inference is that Bob Bradley sticks to his favorite players too much, and it shows in the center back position (among others). And Tim Ream is one of those players. I think Bradley takes pride in thinking that he’s developed him into a world class back and sees him as the future. But again, I don’t think he had been playing especially well for the NYRB this season and sticking to an ideal can be risky.

      I think Borchers and Whitbread are a cut above him right now. I think its nonsense when people discredit Whitbread especially saying that he hasn’t “been with the team” while Ream has only played a handful of games with the Nats. Does it really make that much of a difference?


      • Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 9:13 AM

        Except this isn’t a favorite players thing! Bradley’s tried all sorts of players at centerback and yet the team keeps on giving up goals, despite having a near world-class keeper. The actual inference is that Bradley doesn’t know how to coach to a sufficient level.

        Yeah, I think it’s a fair thing for Bradley not to have called in Borchers or Whitbread. You need them integrated into the team, communicating with each other, keepers, etc. Ream’s been with the team since November, so he’s been in camp, been in games, etc. Borchers might be an improvement; Whitbread is White Onyewu. No thanks. Whitbread is the overrated potential USMNT player du jour–he can join the club with Maurice Edu, Jose Francisco Torres, and Chair Emeritus Edgar Castillo.

        The guy who needs to have a look taken at from MLS is George John. And while I’m not fond of Omar Gonzalez, his learning curve has been impressive.


    • Posted by Sean on 2011/06/12 at 9:15 AM

      This is 2 games in a row that Dolo’s crosses have missed the mark. They went one of three ways, either too short and cleared by the defenders, out of bounds, or to the goalkeepers hands. He still brings plenty quality to the that position, but it seems clear, to me anyways, that he will have to hang up his boots in the next year or so for the Nats. Luckily Chandler and Lichaj show tons of promise.

      All the midfield had a terrible game, Jones and Bradley were awful as a pair, as was the invisible Donovan. MB90 just seemed out of it (and I think he’s the best CM in the pool). There was absoulutely no movement from anyone but Dempsey. At least Jones was pissed when he came out, it’s irrelevant if it was at his display or the team as a whole. Dempsey was the only one doing anything going forward. The CB pairing definitely needs work, but clearly Goodson and Ream will be the starters going forward, and this will provide invaluable experience.

      We needed a spark offensively, and Bedoya and Kljestan provided it. That should say enough there. While Bedoya looks to be a future prospect, I am not a fan of Kljestan’s game. He is not international quality, and its ahmeful that he was the best player (save Dempsey) last night.


      • Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 9:28 AM

        Why is it so implausible Kljestan is international quality again? Because he looked bad two years ago? His ugly mustache? Hot girlfriend? A lot of people are prejudiced against Kljestan because of that, but he’s looked pretty good in the past three games and was an important player for Anderlecht, a big club in a good league.

        Kljestan has always had two big issues: he’s scatterbrained, and his speed of play is poor. Have you seen either of these things in the past three games? I haven’t, and I’ve seen a lot of the Good Kljestan stuff–his willingness to try to open up teams with his passing, and his activity. I don’t want to say this is absolutely certain, but it’s totally plausible that that competition and quality in Belgium and the Europa League has improved some of Kljestan’s flaws. And good for him: Kljestan took a risk and went to test himself against a higher level of competition. That’s a great attitude for a USMNT aspirant.

        I wouldn’t say no if we saw a Bradley/Kljestan combination in the center of midfield on Tuesday.


        • Posted by Sean on 2011/06/12 at 10:30 AM

          I thought Kljestan was poor all game against Spain, especially playing outside. He is probably in the top three of players in our pool who can play dangerous balls in vertically, but his decision making is slow. Many times the run is made, and the ball comes late. Regardless, he looked good last night, I’m just not a fan. I hope he proves me wrong.

          We need movement and desire from the front six or five if Jones is to sit deep. They didn’t provide anything, especially in the first half.


        • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/13 at 7:09 AM

          The fact that Klejstan and Bedoya have both been able to add to the US attack just makes it more incredible that the US is still playing a 4-4-2. We have no strikers that belong at this level so try the 4-2-3-1. Put Dempsey up top, the 3 being Donovan, Bedoya and Klejstan as interchangeable parts with some combination of Edu/MB90 and Jones. That way you have the one guy who actually looks like he can score in a position to do it surrounded by attack minded players with skill.


          • Posted by Sean on 2011/06/13 at 7:49 AM

            I’d go for that, IF Dempsey could provide an option to beat the defense on a through ball. However, that is not the case, so he should sit in the hole. Either way, Donovan needs to show up, if he doesn’t or if we do not find an heir to him, than the outlook for 2014 is bleak.


            • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/13 at 8:06 AM

              But clearly we don’t even attempt those types of passes if we weren’t offside even once in the game.

  18. Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 9:08 AM

    One note: I’ve been really pleased with the performance of Sacha Kljestan so far this tournament. Testament to how better competition and coaching can improve your game dramatically. MLS Kljestan was scatterbrained and had issues against increased speed of play. Belgium League Kljestan looks much more focused and not lost at all.

    Hope isn’t lost yet for Maurice Edu and Jose Francisco Torres–just jump leagues, if you can.


  19. Posted by Joe on 2011/06/12 at 10:01 AM

    I think I read something negative about MB….. I dont get what game you guys watch if you dont see that hes the engine of this team. If anyone was MIA, it was Landon. Can you dribble 1 pathetic Panamanian 11th division player please??? All I saw was slow build ups letting Panama get set in their 10 guy set behind the ball. Slow slow slow. Jones sucked, let me see Spector in midfield for that. Altidore has a trampoline on his foot for his 1st touch.

    Awful game….. hurry up Stu we need you.


    • Donovan’s play and this comment kind of reminds me of Claudio Reyna circa 2006 World Cup. That team, besides being overrated and overconfident, suffered tremendously for Reyna’s “slowing down the buildup” style of play. I saw the same thing from Landon last night.


  20. One thing that hasn’t been discussed thus far is Donovan’s effort in the first half (on the right).

    I focused on his play last night and I was appalled by his distribution. Time after time he passed the ball to a Panamanian or to no one in particular. I wish I knew where to find statistics on last night’s game, because I would wager his pass completion percentage was less than 50% in the first half. Donovan was awful. He did look better when switched to the left when play was more open and he could cut inside.

    Some commenters here as suggesting that our players are too comfortable–Donovan sure looks that way to me.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/12 at 10:07 AM

      Worried that Donovan might be hiding an injury or something–all his set pieces were short last night.


      • Posted by EFG on 2011/06/12 at 4:41 PM

        I’ve been yelling at TVs all over DC since March about his set pieces never making it past the first defender. Unfortunately, there isn’t anyone else on the current squad that would do better consistently.


    • Posted by Jen on 2011/06/12 at 12:53 PM

      I went to the game and it seemed at times that Donovan was playing very centrally in the first half.


  21. […] Snap Judgements: USA vs. Panama The US falls to Panama in Game 2 of the Group Stage. It’s the first loss ever for the States in the Group Stage of […] […]


  22. […] Third, our TSG friends suggest the US was punished for its lack of width, and they’ve got the diagrams t… […]


  23. Matt,

    Is there a website you’re going to for those formation dot images, or are you doing them yourself in paint?


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