US Falls To Panama, 2-1: Same Script, No 2nd Half Oscar

This is a guest review by one of TSG’s favorite footie writers……

  ……Neil W. Blackmon of The Yanks Are Coming.

Digging a hole against Panama...

Every now again, you get punched in the mouth.

Forget the referee.

Forget the two missed sitters at the end that would have equalized.

Forget all of it.

Tonight, the US Men’s National Team was punched in the mouth. Dr. Martin Luther King said you don’t know much about a man until he faces adversity—for Bob Bradley and his twenty-three patriots—this is their “Dr. King” moment. The United States will play Guadeloupe in three days and it will need a win and a Panama loss to Canada to claim victory in its group. Yes, we’re referring to Ii’s Gold Cup group. That’s as big a punch in the mouth as you take in soccer, one would think. Certainly there are a great number of talking points from tonight’s game which in the end can only be characterized as an abject failure—the worst loss of the Bob Bradley era (and it isn’t even close, folks.) To this writer, however, two critical points must be made.

just about says it all...

First, the United States was called offside zero times on the evening. That’s telling: it speaks to a lack of quality runs, not just by forwards but by old mainstays and reliable figures such as Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. Zero offside calls. Do the research—you’ll rarely find a side that wins a game against a quality opponent (more on that in a moment) without one offside call. The US lost tonight, and it was not once called offside.

Second, as upsetting as the United States’ performance was tonight, Panama deserves a great deal of credit. In any sport, not just soccer, an upset tends to involve the following formula. First, a favored side enters a game fully expecting to win. Second, the favored side is substantially better, or the disparity is enough to lull the favored side into a false sense of overconfidence. Third, the favored side has to play below the level in which it is capable.

Finally, the opponent has to play above the level in which it is capable. All of those things happened tonight at the Pirate Ship in Tampa. The Americans lacked urgency—perhaps sensing they were clearly superior to their opponent, and opening the game with that in mind. The Panamanians came to play—and ahead two goals, they tactically did exactly what they should have done—bunkering back and weathering the storm that was the match’s final thirty minutes. In the end, the recipe for an upset was met, and the result was more than fair. That’s worth reiterating and keeping in mind as you read the remainder of this piece, because as harsh as one could be towards the Americans tonight (who were doubtlessly poor), it is unfair to not credit the victors. With that in mind, it is time to recap with three final thoughts and player ratings.

Disclaimer: If you are a regular Yanks Are Coming reader, the format of the piece won’t shock you. If you are a regular TSG reader (many more of you), it might. Here’s the deal: three thoughts and player ratings is normally how I do things. Tonight/tomorrow morning—I provide the normal TYAC review, plus a Golden Shinguard, in honor of TSG.

A brief showing of strength from the US....Goodson congratulated on his goal.

Three Final Thoughts

He wasn't on the field...

First, this loss is NOT on Bob Bradley. Yes, you can criticize his player selections- but that’s pretty much normal for any skipper, especially when you lose. The two things you can’t question are his tactical decisions and his substitutions. They were fine. And at the end of the day, occasionally you lose, and it isn’t your manager or coach’s fault. Some losses are on players. This was one such loss.

To support this claim, one could easily reference the zero offside calls on the United States. It would be nice to suggest Panama was responsible for that statistic, but as well as Panama played the reality is the United States simply had a high striker tonight who didn’t want to involve himself in the match or make runs, and they paired him with a young support striker who made runs but those runs were late and they were not clever. But you can’t place defeat wholly on the shoulders of lackadaisical forwards. Not when you are thoroughly beaten. The bottom line? Panama were better. And that’s on the players.

How were Panama better, and why is it on players and not the manager, you ask? Thanks for asking. Where to begin… first—center backs Clarence Goodson and Tim Ream read their press, or played like they did. They looked every bit the pair who felt they would have an easy run-out against Panama, and they were exploited. Goodson was nowhere near the confident player he was against Canada: shaky in distribution, caught out of position on the first goal, late to mark on the sequence leading to the second. Ream showed us his youth, but worse, he showed us the player who seemed a bit off form in his final games with the Red Bulls before heading to camp. He was slow to react, late to challenge (although the press contingent felt the penalty was harsh) on the penalty, and bad in the air (a weakness Panama challenged early and often, to their credit). Ream was still effective in link-up play, particularly with MB 90 and Sacha Kljestan in the second half, but he’s a CB, not a DM, and that’s concerning.

Beyond central defender failures, the US were victimized by the second “I’m either tired or not interested” performance from Jermaine Jones. Jones was poor in distribution (supposedly a strength), he was late to track back on the first goal, and mercifully, he was pulled after an hour by Bob Bradley for the far more effective Sacha Kljestan. Sure—you could complain about the starting 11—but that’s hindsight, not fair, and to be honest Jones deserved to start after the Canada match. The jury is out on whether he should start against Guadeloupe, after all, the point of destroyers in the midfield is to disrupt rhythm, and Jones did none of that.

Howard beaten, but not more so than the Yanks' centerbacks.

For most of the fatal first half, Panamanian mids Gabriel Gomez and Amilcar Henriquez, as well as roaming front man Luis Tejada, were given too much space just past the center stripe and were more or less allowed to spray the ball around at will. Jones’ role is to prevent just that from happening—and it is disheartening that he was unable to do so against an opponent like Panama. In the end, Panama wanted it more, played harder (than nearly all Yanks), and victimized an American backline that at every position is either aging rapidly or too young. The American backline wasn’t up to the challenge; Panama was; and that’s the end of the story.

Second, once you establish that Panama deserves a great deal of credit, it is critical to understand that this game is the best evidence in the Bradley tenure (Slovenia included) that the American margin for error is razor thin.

As Jeff Carlisle wrote here, the Americans certainly need to start matches better. Falling behind might be the stuff of Hollywood film or ESPN drama—but it is NOT the stuff of winning international tournament soccer. The Yanks have little excuse for falling behind Panama, particularly in a match where they were dominating possession—and they quite simply needed to respect the Panamanian counter more. Again, you could blame Bradley the Senior—but that seems unfair—after all—the players need to respect opponents. Bob can talk until he’s blue in the face, but that’s not enough.

As for margin of error—the cold reality is that the Americans simply can’t count on beating anyone before the match begins, no matter what their fans think. Tonight’s loss was bizarre—but even more so because the Americans seemed so apathetic on the pitch and apathetic in the interview room. Landon Donovan called it a “learning process”—one can only wonder when the “learning” ends for the MLS poster-child. What we do know: the US isn’t quite good enough to come two goals behind to win at anything—but that’s not a personal view and if you’re a betting man, bet US heavy against Guadeloupe. Just can’t see a Bob Bradley led side giving up—if anything redeeming happened tonight—it was that the boys didn’t quit. But “not quitting isn’t enough”. Being committed is better, and striving for personal excellence is the best option.  The reality? Well, the US can’t fall behind 2-0 to anyone but Slovenia. And in this region—they’ll have to act more interested in wearing the USMNT shirt before we decide to move forward. But we’ll see.

Landon: Didn't make it out to the rodeo...

Finally, as good (and suddenly passionate?) as Clint Dempsey is—this is still Landon Donovan’s rodeo, and tonight just won’t do.

A pair of press folks said this was the worst game they’ve ever seen Landon Donovan play in a US Shirt. I don’t know if I can go that far, but what I will say is it wasn’t good. Service was poor (even on the goal, he received help from Clint Dempsey), tracking back was a bit lazy (uncharacteristic), and patience was lacking. Why does this matter? Should be pretty simple. Without Landon Donovan—this team (and it’s tournament chances) is very, very ordinary. With an effective LD—well—that’s a different situation, but the bottom line is if the USMNT is serious about reclaiming the trophy from Mexico—they’ll need Landon to be the creator and defense unlocking influence he’s capable of being, or at the very least, they’ll need him to make more effective runs, to remember to keep width, and to provide better service. Not a banner night for LD.

Muted, but effort was there...

Golden Shin Guard:  Hard to decide on a night when the Yanks simply weren’t up to snuff, but if pressed, I’d say MB 90, simply because he was steady in distribution and particularly effective when the US were chasing the game in the second half. Bradley missed a sitter to tie it (like two of his other teammates) late, so it’s tough to say he merits the award, but if we’re in the business of handing out default golden shinguards, Michael is about the best available choice.


Tim Howard, 6—Couldn’t do anything about either goal and nearly saved penalty. Distribution was sound, and actually made a brilliant prerequisite save minutes before the second goal , which was really a brilliant penalty, not a Howard error.

Carlos Bocanegra, 5—One of those nights where Boca lacked the pace and wherewithal to influence the game like he did “back in the day.” Did well in second half with distribution and maintaining position when Panama decided to counter.

Clarence Goodson, 5—Scored goal- so there’s that, and not much else. Goodson’s passing was poor, his distribution was off, and he was out of position on the opening Panamanian goal. None of those things are positive—and this was a step backwards from the Gold Cup opener.

Tim Ream, 3.5– in a word—Not Good. Silly challenge resulted in penalty, though press contingent wasn’t sure it was the right call, and though passing was fine he was caught out of position on first Panamanian goal and responsible as well for the second.

Steve Cherundolo, 5—Not his best night. Service and final balls were off even though he was the only American providing width. Yes, his range seemed to improve in the fourth half of this tournament—but he was tested on the flank (and beaten) at times and on a night where Landon Donovan is disinterested in providing width—Stevie C must provide more.

MB 90, 6—Another fine night for the American central mid, though I’d like to see him not drop so far back on defense (and no, I don’t think it is on Bradley). He flicked Jones on for his goal, and just missed an equalizer of his own from seven yards. It was a sitter—so yeah—he should be feeling bad.

Landon Donovan, 3—Really? Was he even on the field? We saw him miss late just wide of the post, but other than that- he had very little influence. The US needs more from Donovan if they are going to win this tournament, and he’ll have to be better both on set-piece service and in open play if the Yanks are to win the group with a big victory (and a Panama loss) this week.

Jermaine Jones, 4—Not his best moment. Really felt his passing was off early—and if there were ever a time to question Jermaine Jones—that would be it. Jones can probably at least blame Bradley’s tactics somewhat—but it is hard to suggest that he was told to play that deep. Taking the shirt off when substituted—that was icing on a bad night cake.

Dempsey persevered, but needed help...

Clint Dempsey, 6.5—A fine performance by Duece mostly, but he’ll rue the sitter from 7 yards (unmarked) where the ball was passed to Wondo (who missed from four yards) instead. Dempsey made creative runs and his effort was outstanding, but at the same time—the USMNT was playing Panama and he should play this well.

Jozy Altidore, 3—Not a good night for a guy who seemed like he’d turned the corner last week. Oh well. Perhaps US will win manana…..Good ball towards end should have been rewarded with goal- but there weren’t enough good moments. Also lost his marker on opening goal—that’s not okay under Bob Bradley.

Juan Agudelo—Pretty good write-up here. Main thing about this guy is (unlike so many US strikers), he seemed interested in making positive or at least interesting runs. Problem was he didn’t get much in the way of distribution from either Donovan or Cherundolo—two key figures in making his diagonal runs productive.

Chris Wondolowski, 4—Didn’t seem ready for ball (Dempsey was unmarked) late in game. That’s not excusable, especially for an MLS player who finds garbage goals effectively. Pace was fine but this is Panama, where he shouldn’t be overwhelmed. As mentioned—missed a sitter to tie—and that’s not acceptable, at any level. Wondo needs to finish—and here he failed.

Sacha Kljestan, 6—Another good performance from the guy everyone loves to scapegoat. Lacked a moment of magic- but didn’t turn the ball over—thought about playing offense, got forward and was good tackling and interacting with MB 90. Think he might be ready to start.

Alejandro Bedoya, 5.5– Initially felt he was quiet and didn’t impact the game too well. Watched final 30 again, however, and have to credit Bedoya with a nice performance.  The US lacks width terribly– Bedoya helped stretch the field a bit and had some nice moments passing the ball and interacting with his fellow substitute Sacha Kljestan. Flop was right call, though yellow card was harsh, but if you’re looking for a bright spot on a dark night– think about the run that Bedoya made to get in that position to begin with. One day, a defender will trip him, and the Americans will have a penalty.

Neil W Blackmon is co-founder of The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at and you can follow him on Twitter at @nwb_usmnt.

84 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 10:14 AM

    Well, look–if US players aren’t consistently respecting opponents, doesn’t that fall on the coach? If the U.S. consistently gives up tons of goals despite having a near world-class goalie and despite trying out umpteen different combinations, isn’t that on the coach? These things have been always been problems, and worse, the goalscoring isn’t as good as it once was.

    A lot of Bradley defenders are trying to claim this is a one-off, but fact is the U.S. hasn’t been doing so hot since the beginning of 2010. Losing to Panama at home is merely the worst point in this entire misadventure, and it’s at this rock bottom that we should reevaluate. Is it the talent? Somehow our players keep on moving up into newer, better leagues and are valued for more money than before. Are the best leagues in the world somehow systematically wrong about the quality of our players? Or, as is more likely, is it the coach?


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/12 at 10:43 AM

      Some valid points, but on this occasion I feel that you’re being a little harsh on Bradley. Surely the players have to look at themselves for not taking their chances, no? Cannot believe that so many opportunites were created in open play, but the goal came from a set-piece. Some of those misses makes Emile Heskey look like a lethal finisher.


      • Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 10:50 AM

        Yeah, sure. I mean, the game itself is basically a fluke. Howard mishandled a ball, U.S. had more chances, should had a PK, etc. But, given the circumstances–the U.S. having much more talent and playing at home–the game shouldn’t be a fluke. More damningly, a fluke result in the context of otherwise-strong results is excusable; a fluke result in the context of disappointing results is a very worrying phenomenon. Given that the team continues to exhibit the exact same flaws, despite the individual parts’ doing quite well when playing for their clubs, the most likely culprit is the coach.


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

          While I agree that the team is still exhibiting the same flaws, I’m not sure I’m on board with “the individual parts’ doing quite well when playing for their clubs” bit. Jozy didn’t see a ton of run with Bursaspor. Bradley (though he was good yesterday) was in the same boat at Villa. Agudelo doesn’t start in New York. Jones did well at Blackburn, but he (and Bob for that matter) are still trying to figure out how he fits with the team. Throw Ream being a little out of form with the Red Bulls and that’s 5 of last night’s starting 11 (including both forwards) that I’d say aren’t doing quite well with their clubs. That’s half of our field players. I think this team is a bit unsettled right now. They lack talent in key areas (CB and forward, in particular) and are still figuring out how to play together (a bunch of these guys are new). Kind of in flux, no?


          • Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 11:14 AM

            Dempsey won player of the year for Fulham, Howard was Howard for Everton, Cherundolo led Hanover to its best-ever result in the Bundesliga, Jones played in the Champions League, Donovan is killing MLS as usual, Kljestan and Edu were important pieces for big clubs…

            (I’d quibble for Bradley: to me, he looks better than he did at the beginning of the year–his passing is much more consistent and less stupidly ambitious.)


            • Posted by Sam on 2011/06/12 at 11:27 AM

              Right. But, what about the others? Jozy? Juan? Ream? Jones still being relatively new to the team?

              That, along with there being relatively unfamiliar faces in key spots (again: Ream, Agudelo, Jones), makes me think there are going to be bumpy patches. Doesn’t mean you should be losing to Panama, but I think the talent/chemistry is such that we’re going to be transitioning for at least a little bit.

            • Posted by KMac on 2011/06/12 at 2:22 PM

              First, let me say that is the hardest 90 minutes I have watched since being at the stadiums for all 3 game in Germany 2006 (the Italy game was the exception there). After I got done hitting the heavy bag for 20 minutes after the match last night and got some sleep, I have to say I can’t pin much of this on coaching. If the special one, Klinsmann, Pep, or anyone else for that matter was on the sidelines last night, would it have changed much with the player pool that we are? Perhaps preparation or tactics would have been different.

              Germany 2006, Confed Cup 2009, and now Gold Cup 2011 (Spain friendly included) have shown that as much as I want to see a world beating team develop, our team is not there yet. Some will blame Arena in 06, others won’t and Bradley ever after. I can’t get behind the Bob bashers for last night. Sure some folks will cling to “only ifs” like:
              “If only Adu, Torres, Elvis, or your deity of choice started”, all of our difficulty would not have happened .

              I have to give Mr Blackmon full credit for his insights – they ring true to me. My personal belief is that there are x factors which led to the debacle last night.

              1. Panama played hard and were hungry – I’ve seen many technically gifted individuals handed their lunch by someone (or a team) who want to win more… and our tepid (if not meek start in the first half …)
              2. Pregame commentary by the players leading up to the game showed me they were in their minds already through and “resting the starters” before the whistle blew in Tampa last night. Just like a metaphor for our country at large, we need individual accountability and leadership – the government ( or the coach) is not going to do it for us.
              3. We had a continuum / mix of experienced players and those getting experience or in between on the field. The trouble was except for Howard and Dempsey, the experienced guys were subdued and not sharp. I saw the tenaciousness of Jay Demeritt and the physical dominance of the old Gooch missing in defense, the speed of play and passing of Donovan absent, and a true space making, defense stretching threat like Charlie Davies missing. Man if I could change history on two days it would be in October of 2009. Look Ream and Goodson pass much better, but we need to dominate teams like Panama. I still have hope they will grow better.
              3. Some of our guys just don’t have reps together. How many US Caps does Jones, Agudelo, Goodson and Ream (for example) have – and how many are with the “full team” and not a mix of lesser players?

              4. The ref did not help us any (get used to it) and we did not help ourselves with the ref.

              I will try to look at our cup for what is in it ( even though half full seems a little optimistic for last night), and remember Matthew’s point that one game (forgive my paraphrase) is not enough to damn a program.

              Bottom line, I will try not to over-react to a data point and I will stand behind our guys to show on Tuesday and for the remainder of the cup that they can pick up the pieces and find ways win (like in Confed Cup 2009, and almost in WC 2010).

            • Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 2:57 PM

              Again, I don’t think you can blame this on the player pool. If you lose to Mexico, maybe, then maybe you get to do that. But this isn’t Mexico. This isn’t even Costa Rica. It’s Panama. It’s Panama at home. Let’s have a little self-respect and be real here.

      • Posted by Sam on 2011/06/12 at 10:54 AM

        Agree with George. Some good points, but this one was more about the players. Bradley started the same group that he played against Canada and got vastly different results. The finishing was bad, the center backs didn’t show up, and the forwards didn’t do enough. To me, that speaks more to a lack of talent (Juan and Ream are still green; Jozy just doesn’t seem to have it, Canada game withstanding; Goodson’s still a relative newcomer at the national level) than poor coaching. One thing I think we can pick on Bob for is the lack of width. That was bad and will hopefully change on Tuesday.

        Also, what the hell was with Landon last night? Thought he was terrible…


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

          Lack of talent? Really? That’s no excuse at all. The U.S. started six players playing in top 5 leagues, and two players in strong European leagues. Panama started, uh, none.


        • How can you give Juan and Ream a pass because they’re ‘green’ but say Jozy just doesn’t have it? He’s younger than Ream! He’s been around a while but he’s still learning as well. That doesn’t excuse a poor performance, but you can’t forget how young Jozy is still while giving other players a pass for still being young.


    • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/13 at 7:25 AM

      Yeah, stop with the excuses for Coach Sweats. The US team concedes early goals in a lot of games which shows that the team doesn’t come out prepared or in the best formations. Sweats makes changes after halftime and the team plays better. Then he goes back to the formation that has struggled repeatedly.

      I see people putting this on the players and saying that Jozy doesn’t have it at this level. If that’s true then why does Bob keep picking him? Even the Bob defenders seem to understand that his player selection is poor and that his formations don’t work because it puts those poor players in positions they can’t handle. Then they blame the players for not performing.

      As for transitioning being the issue, the US has been conceding early goals and struggling to play together since 2009. It doesn’t matter which group of defenders is in there because they aren’t coached in a way that allows to work as a unit.

      I think what we are seeing now is a Klinsman/Jogi Loew situation with Bradley/Nowak. Nowak left and since then the US has looked disorganized and the players repeatedly say that they underestimated the opposition.


  2. Sorry. Bob Bradley *can* be blamed, despite starting a strong XI. The lack of effort to stretch the field (i.e. no offsides), the inability to possess the ball in the middle of the pitch, and the slow-developing attack – which allowed Panama to put 8 players behind the ball before the U.S. went at goal – are all things that a coach can and should influence. Yes, the players looked unusually sluggish. Yes, Panama played unusually well. But this match underscored that “razor-thin” margin of the Bob Bradley era. He has demonstrated time and again the inability to instill cohesion and tactical discipline. That, more than the players themselves, has prevented that margin from growing.

    I maintain that true progress for the USMNT is not only about results; it’s about the quality of play on the pitch and the consistency thereof. Even if we had pipped a point last night, it would not change the underlying issues. Nor will it if we turn things around and win the Gold Cup. Granted, at our current form, we won’t get close to Mexico.


    • Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 10:39 AM

      Oh no, our current form will get us close to Mexico. We lose or tie to Guadeloupe, finish in third place. Boom! Mexico-U.S. in the quarterfinals. We’ll be in the same stadium and everything.


  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/12 at 10:44 AM

    Rolling with Neil’s commentary on no offsides–and dropping some fun in the commentary section–one thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that Agudelo and Altidore have very similar styles. Where as Altidore worked off the space created by Charlie Davies and sometimes Robbie Findley, Agudelo’s game is not long angular runs.

    That has hurt the Yanks’ 4-4-2 in my opinion.


    • Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 10:53 AM

      This is a good point–both guys want to have the ball at their feet and run at people. Unfortunately, neither is really all that good at it, and they also like to take up the same spaces. (Somewhere Hans Backe is nodding happily.) So Agudelo and Altidore either need to reach an outstanding understanding, or a change may need to be made.

      (Bradley’s roster selection leaves something to be desired here: Dempsey also wants to be in the same kinds of spaces as Agudelo and Altidore, Wondolowski will probably be in the doghouse, which leaves, uh, hmm….)


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

        -1 to Coach Sweats for not seeing the similarities in player positioning for all his forwards (Demps included) and not trying to mix it up in selection for different options (TB, Gomez, Buddle, etc.). Mixing and matching the same type of player will not yield new results.


    • Can’t disagree with Matthew’s point either– the question I have is how much different is the excluded Bunbury from the two starters? And in further tapering my “no blame on Bradley” theme– let me emphasize at least that I’m mostly speaking about tactics. Player selection doesn’t just involve the match as played, it involves squad selection for any tournament. Given Herculez Gomez’s form, and the fact that he’s a different type of forward than Wondo– it’s hard to know what he’s doing not on the team…


      • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/13 at 7:34 AM

        Bob wanted to bring in Adu for evaluation so he had to keep someone deserving at home. That alone should get him fired. Why waste a roster spot in an important tournament for someone that you’re just evaluating? So he left himself with 3 strikers, 2 who play the exact same style and one who can’t hit the net from 3 yards.


  4. Posted by mbw on 2011/06/12 at 11:02 AM

    I agree with the assessment of Donovan, but it’s only fair to note that practically every good US chance in the second half came through him.

    Also worth mentioning: Jozy bears a lot of responsibility for the first Panama goal, and a little responsibility for Wondo’s miss (because the cross came in eight inches too high, this being a prime example of endemic USMNT imprecise passing).

    Also: Why can’t we question Bob Bradley’s substitutions? I guess there’s at least an argument to be made for playing Jozy over Agudelo (though I don’t agree with it) — but why give up on the aerial threat by pulling Goodson instead of Ream?


    • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/06/12 at 11:31 AM

      Eight inches too high? Seriously?


    • That’s a horrible statement about Jozy’s pass to Wondo. Have you ever even played as a flank player before? Any coach will tell you that when you turn the corner and prepare to cross the ball from a flank position you have two options. One: drive a high bending ball to the back corner of the six yard box or, two: drive a low driven shot across the face of the goal but so that the keeper can’t reach it.

      Jozy’s pass to wondo was driven low and hard, you can’t give him crap for it being a few inches above the ground since that’s exactly what you want in those crosses. It’s on Wondo, brought to be a clinical finisher, to simply redirect it into an open net.


      • Posted by mbw on 2011/06/12 at 2:17 PM

        Having watched it a few more times, I’ll concede that the statement about Jozy’s cross was wrong. I had thought the comparison was to the ball he played to Dempsey against Algeria — which he did play on the ground — but you can see on the replay (5:19 in the highlights at that the central defenders hadn’t yet stepped up at the time he played the cross. I still think the height and pace of the ball had something to do with Wondo missing a play he shouldn’t have missed; but you’re right that it was a good play from Jozy. Sorry Jozy!


        • Posted by Martin on 2011/06/13 at 4:08 PM

          Based on your statement about the cross, I’ll bet you never played striker.

          Gerd Muller, probably the greatest goalscorer in modern times ( look him up on Google) once said something to the effect that the majority of the balls a striker will receive will come to him at an uncomfortable height ( somewhere between his knee and his shoulder), an awkward angle, and probably too fast or too slow.

          I saw movies of his practice routines where he would stand in the middle of the box and have players blast all kinds of crosses at him from all points of the compass. And he wasn’t fussy about style. As long as he got a legal part of his body on the cross and directed it goalward with something on it , that was all that mattered.

          I watched him play a number of times. He was short, stocky with very powerful thighs and a low center of gravity, impossible to move off the ball once he had it, he was also excellent in the air particularly with diving headers.

          With a defender draped all over him, Muller would taken Jozy’s cross and punched a hole in the back of the net with it.


    • Fair points, especially on the Goodson substitution. There are at least a few writers (NYT’s John Godfrey, for example) who have tapered Goodson criticism from last night a bit, saying you can’t blame him for Ream’s poor game. I don’t agree with that, but think taking a proven aerial threat off is a bit odd.

      As for Donovan– I didn’t see every good US chance or nearly every good US chance in the 2nd half coming through him. Really thought most came through MB 90 in the center or Sacha Kljestan after he entered and displayed a good interplay relationship with Deuce and Bedoya. But that’s being nit picky, I suppose.


      • Posted by mbw on 2011/06/12 at 8:23 PM

        Re: Donovan, I was probably exaggerating in order to make a point — but he did take the free kick that produced the goal, set up Jozy on the ball Wondo missed, played the pass to Kljestan that started the sequence that ended with Bradley’s miss, and played a ball in to Dempsey that would have been a 1 v. 1 for Altidore had Deuce not pulled the trigger instead. Other players were involved, too, of course — just thought Donovan’s part was worth noting in light of the (justifiably) tough reviews he’s getting.

        Enjoyed your piece, as always.


    • Posted by amh on 2011/06/13 at 6:52 AM

      Goodson was on a yellow so that might have gone into the reasoning. Plus Ream is probably better as the lone center back with his passing skills.


  5. Posted by chazcar2 on 2011/06/12 at 11:24 AM

    I have been a Bob Bradley defender to many people. He gets great effort out of the team. He does the best with what he has. The US is punching above their weight.

    I have said all of it. I am done. DONE! Last night’s game was all about the lack of preparedness. Start watching the Studio 90 videos of Bobo’s pregame speeches. I always feel uninspired and confused at the end, just like his players.

    Also successful national team coaches don’t play people out of their club position. No national team coach is converting a person who plays 40-50 games a year as a center mid into a winger or visa versa. Altidore is just NOT a target forward. Agudelo is NOT a target forward. Wondo also not this. If you want to play with a target forward then bring one to the game! You can’t force the players into a system. You bring a system to your players. You can’t play a 4-4-2 without wingers, you just can’t.

    Finally, the players: Where was the effort? Why is Jones here? What is up with Donavon? Did Altidore ever have touch? Why does agudelo keep trying to do too much? Isn’t Wondo a lethal finisher? Why does Boca play fullback? When can Ream move to a good league? Can Dolo find the fountian of youth? Where are all the left footed us players? Can Bedoya flop better?

    On Ream’s penalty: It was a penalty. Clearly a problem with playing in the MLS is that very few MLS strikers would have gone to ground on that play and the MLS officials never would have given that Penalty. The sooner Ream gets out of the league the better.


    • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/06/12 at 11:38 AM

      Why does Boca play fullback?

      Didn’t you just say not to play people out of their club position?

      On Ream’s penalty: It was a penalty.

      Yes, it was a foul in the box. Given that the Panamanian had just taken an awful first touch and that the had no play on the ball – which was outside the box at the time of the foul – one could have hoped the ref might let it slide. He didn’t and really Ream has no one to blame but himself for the penalty.

      However, if you’re going to call that, you have to call the unambiguous penalty that Bedoya drew.


    • You’re absolutely right. We should never play anyone in a position other than their club position. Hell, the US should have always been doing that since we have so much depth at every position on the field. Are you actually serious? The US lacks depth all over the pool so you have to play your best players on the field at the same time any way you can, even if it means playing some out of their most natural position. We don’t have the luxury of bringing people off the bench sometimes just so we can only play them in their club position.


      • Posted by chazcar2 on 2011/06/13 at 7:25 AM

        The Boca question was for his club too. He doesn’t seem to have to pace to get up the field and hang with fast wing players. Does he play far up the field at his club? Does his club play a narrow 4-4-2 looking for him to make the width?


  6. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/12 at 12:18 PM

    I am surprised Howard has not received more criticism for the first goal. For such a good keeper, that was exceptionally poor goalkeeping.


    • Posted by KMac on 2011/06/12 at 2:31 PM

      Maybe – but I have to say it was certainly a chain reaction starting with bad closing of time/space in the top of the middle third, wretched man marking all around on the mids and defenders, and then an own goal (unfortunately for Goodson).
      I ‘ll take aim at many, but not Howard. Period.


    • Posted by Jake C on 2011/06/12 at 3:07 PM

      I think he expected the header to be unreachable as the man was unmarked and right in front of goal. He could have done better, sure, but not to blame IMO.


  7. Posted by hodey on 2011/06/12 at 12:30 PM

    Sat in the front row and watched…. That was no dive by Bedoya. I heard the goalie clip him, couldn’t believe he got a yellow. And whoever #23 was for Panama was Man of the Match. He had a phenomenal game.


  8. Posted by Berniebernier on 2011/06/12 at 12:50 PM

    A couple thoughts based on the comments above:

    1) we need to stop measuring the USMNT by Dempsey, Dolo, Howard etc. They are great players but a team is as only as good as our weakest link and at this point is Ream, Jozy, Agudelo Not that these guys don’t have potential but if we want consistent at the level of the we want to be (top 15) we need better in our starting 11 and our bench than we currently have

    2) blaming Howard is like blaming Messi for not scoring. Yes it could have been saved but

    3) this is Bob Bradley’s fault. A good coach finds the right way to motivate players for a game like this. We could blame the players but given our lack of depth mentioned above what can we do.

    4). It’s still early and all that matters is the cup. The us can turn it around quickly. See con fed cup


  9. Posted by Connor Walsh on 2011/06/12 at 1:43 PM

    Disagree about placing no blame on Bradley. Sure, he got tactics right. But his downfall for 3 years has been motivation. For years, the US it seems need to be punched in the mouth to get a response from the players, and this is not acceptable. We are better than needing a win to advance to our own federation tournament quarterfinals. Getting tactics right is one thing, but player selections and motivation are also a part of a managers job description, and Bob has repeatedly failed in those depertments.


    • Posted by KMac on 2011/06/12 at 2:32 PM

      Have you guys played the game? Great players, and even good ones, motivate themselves.


      • Posted by Connor Walsh on 2011/06/12 at 4:17 PM

        Sure they do. But if that’s the case then they’ve been lax in motivating themselves for years. There has to be an underlying cause as to why the US consistantly sucks in the first half of matches like this. One or two games? Then yes u can blame the players, but this is a repeated issue that has been going on for most of Bob Bradleys tenure.


        • Posted by Berniebernier on 2011/06/13 at 6:52 AM

          What exaxtly is Bradley’s job then? He only has the players a couple days a year so from a technique/skills prospective that is really the domain of the club team. It seems to me that Bradley is responsible for selecting a team, selecting tactics/strategy, and the execution of that strategy (which includes motivating players, making sure players are playing the right role, making sure that the team is communicating appropriately, etc).

          Yes, the players should motivate themselves but the best coaches are also motivational masterminds (Fergie, Mourinho, etc.) You don’t top teams dropping points to clearly inferior teams.

          Yes we had trouble finishing, yes we caught some bad breaks, but all that said, we are seeing teams like Mexico killing teams by 3 or 4 goals and I don’t think that Costa Rica or El Salvador are much worse than Panama.


          • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/13 at 7:50 AM

            Costa Rica is head and shoulders better than Panama. They routinely give a tough time to both the US and Mexico so to see them get stomped on by Mexico is an eye opener. Mexico is sending a message with their performance in this tournament and so is the US.


  10. For those criticizing team selection, you have to ask yourself, when the starting lineup was announced did you have an issue with it, It is easy to say the starting lineup was wrong based on how the players performed, but no one knows that going into the game. This was the best lineup we could have fielded based on the the squad selected.

    Also to those complaining about how Bradley is motivating the players, in the end it is up to the players to show up for the game. As a coach I’ve seen fantastic speeches given, and the team is ready to go at kickoff, but then they promptly get destroyed. The players have to play soccer at the end of the day and do their jobs. The coach can’t make them do their job for them. The little secret about coaching is that at some point it stops being about tactics and starts being about the players. Think of the Spain game in 09, Bradley had a fantastic gameplan, but had the players not executed it perfectly then they still would have lost. A manager and players go hand in hand, and last night Bob showed up but the players didn’t


    • Posted by KMac on 2011/06/12 at 2:33 PM



    • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/13 at 7:55 AM

      Yes, I did. Starting Jozy and Agudelo together isn’t a good idea. Agudelo is at best (right now) a 30 minute player to run at tired legs. Go 4-4-1-1 with someone like Deuce in the hole if you can’t handle a full on 4-2-3-1 Bob.

      Why do you say Bob showed up? What proof do you have of that? He put out a lineup and a tactical setup that lost the game. I guess since I disagree with your main point then we’ll disagree here as well.


      • Posted by Martin on 2011/06/13 at 4:26 PM


        “Why do you say Bob showed up? What proof do you have of that? He put out a lineup and a tactical setup that lost the game. I guess since I disagree with your main point then we’ll disagree here as well.”

        Players lose games, not tactical plans. I didn’t see Bob Bradley out there losing his man or commiting bad fouls. Panama went out there and took this game and it was the players that let them do that not Bob Bradley.

        And how is it you are a better judge of Agudelo’s and Altidore’s fitness? The USMNT has a very highly regarded fitness staff.


        • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/14 at 5:14 AM

          That’s not true at all. Tactical plans lose games all the time. For example, Sir Alex Ferguson lost the game to Barcelona in the Champions League final because he refused to adjust his tactics to prevent Barcelona from dominating possession. As Mourinho has shown the only chance you have against Barca at this point is to clog the midfield and make it difficult for them. Any other tactic allows them too much freedom and possession.

          I’m not judging Agudelo’s fitness. I’m judging his effectiveness. When he’s come off the bench he’s been effective but as a starter not so much.


    • Posted by jtjd723 on 2011/06/13 at 1:55 PM

      so bradley’s game plan in 09 was for spain to miss all there chances?? You would think he’d use that game plan everytime… Howard was great we were lucky sometimes luck can make tactics look a whole lot better. Ask Morinho, how were his tactics after he ran out of luck his last match against Barcelona…

      If you keep selecting unmotivated players than yes you are at fought.. Not saying coach is only to blame but he definately needs questioned.


  11. Posted by primoone on 2011/06/12 at 2:02 PM

    Dear mr. Author,

    You have one good point. Everything else is rubbish.


    • Not a particularly productive form of criticism, but I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the article. If you care to elaborate- perhaps we can flesh this out.


    • Posted by sfshwebb on 2011/06/12 at 9:05 PM

      Primone – We here at TSG like to foster constructive criticism or comments, not plain attacks on our authors, contributors or fellow posters. Please refrain from these sort of comments on this site. Thanks and enjoy.


      • Posted by Martin on 2011/06/13 at 4:30 PM

        Primoone typically posts on another site and fancies himself at another level.

        He’s not into explaining himself, though I’d be curious as to what was the one good point..


    • Posted by Crotalus on 2011/06/13 at 9:04 AM

      Which point was the good one?


  12. Posted by Jake C on 2011/06/12 at 3:00 PM

    Don’t see how BB isn’t to blame for this. You all but contradict yourself when you point to the lack of offside calls, but also mention Agudelo’s runs. Dempsey wanted to get involved, but was befuddled by the lack of midfield linkup play. Ream, Goodson, and Donovan garner most of the blame in your review, but Jones’ poor performance doesn’t take a central role in the review, and I think it should. The space in the midfield for Panama’s attack was atrocious; show me a defender that can handle that kind of consistent pressure and I’ll give you a shiny medal.

    The passing was much too slow, players took too many touches on the ball. If Donovan was so poor (I agree with you that he was), then why wasn’t he one of Bob’s subs? Bottom line, no communication, no efficiency on the ball, no adaptation at half time when the game plan had already been competely stymied by panama. I don’t see how these aren’t coaching problems.


  13. Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 4:19 PM

    Rewatching the Wondolowski miss–the worst part about it wasn’t the miss, it was that Altidore clearly meant the ball to go to Dempsey, who was perfectly positioned to convert the side footed sitter.


  14. Ultimately everyone (coaches, players) share the blame. The question is more about who shoulders more of it proportionately. Almost every post in this discussion has good points. Still, wish player selections would have been better chosen before the cup to fill the 23 more dynamically (a LM that crosses (Brad Davis?) Another stirker, etc. That is the one major criticism the coaching staff can be criticized for. Did we really need Adu, Rogers, and Feilhaber? In hind sight if Onyewu wasn’t in form/underperforming then maybe bringing Demerit would have been wiser. Even though Spector is versatile will he see the field?

    Regardless, whomever is on the team now is who we have. And both the players and coaches need to do better going forward. The players definitely underperformed today but tweaking the lineup would help as well. I personally would like to see Agudelo up top with Demps withdrawn, Altidore on the bench, Kljestan RM, Donovan LM. I think that is a winning combo with the players available (we do not have a holdup striker really). But what do I know? I am not watching these guys day in day out in camp.

    I still have faith in this team and apprehensive faith in the coaches. Looking forward to making that showdown with Mexico.


  15. There is a lot to address here, and I will do my best when I get time later this evening (real job calls)- but I do appreciate the comments and the criticism. One of the best parts of TSG is the community and the enormous number of smart soccer folks who comment. That’s nice for a writer, because it’s lonely to write. Again, I’ll respond more at length in a bit– but since mostly there aren’t any “insults”, I will offer this: I probably should have noted in the “This isn’t on Bob Bradley” section that yes, there are a few things you can be upset with Bob about– and that “blame” should be comparative in any defeat– in this one, players more to blame.


  16. Posted by dth on 2011/06/12 at 5:31 PM

    Mexico killing Costa Rica 2-0 in the 20′. Clearly they know what they’re doing.


  17. Posted by BW on 2011/06/12 at 10:43 PM

    just watched the game for the first time. after reading comments I was expecting to see a lot of things (bad ref, manager issues?, lack of interest by players, etc.) but honestly none of that stood out to me. I thought the ref was fine (sure, a few suspect whistles both ways) and that overall the US played fine with plenty of the ball and plenty of chances. For me, it simply came down to finishing, and the importance of set pieces at this level. All three goals were basically set pieces. We can analyze players, tactics, etc all we want, but to me it’s simple – we just didn’t finish.

    Related to that, I thought the service into the box was pretty poor. There were lots of crosses from the right side, but the looping, chipped balls to the far post just weren’t cutting it!


    • Posted by Doug S on 2011/06/13 at 10:24 AM

      I actually had the same feeling watching the game. The team was not really outplayed. frankly the panama goals were not of the highest quality (trying not to use the term garbage here). The US had more opportunities on goal than panama, but somehow did not convert.

      We need to be able to put ourselves in a position to score early in the game. Late in the game we are peppering the goal with shots and getting crosses in with regularity. I dont think this is entirly due to panama playing a more defensive role. It just seems that the US teams dont turn it on until the final 20′. This has been true for a long time now, and eventually you are going to get caught playing like that. The US needs to bring urgency to the first half of every game, and they do not. there is nobody else you can hold responsible for this other than BB. it’s just time for a change in leadership.


      • Posted by Martin on 2011/06/13 at 5:47 PM

        Here’s what I’d like to see.

        Drop Donovan. Don’t even dress him.

        I’d very interested in how everyone reacts to that. There is a very good chance Guadaloupe will provide stiff opposition ( what do they have to lose and what a coup to beat or tie the US). If this bunch of occasionally gutless wonders needs a kick in the rear, that would do it.

        It certainly would shake things up. It might ruin BB’s relationship with the high maintenance Donovan but BB may lose his job if he doen’t beat Guadaloupe so who cares?


        • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/14 at 5:16 AM

          Wow, I normally don’t agree with Martin on a lot of these discussions but this idea is a great one. Put a little fire in the players by showing that no one is safe and Landycakes is the perfect choice. I highly doubt it will happen though because I don’t think US Soccer would allow him to drop the golden boy.


  18. Posted by Dan on 2011/06/13 at 3:54 AM

    What I couldn’t help thinking as I watched the end of this game was that Bob’s inclusion of only three forwards on the roster (and questionable picks at that) has finally come back to haunt him. It’s late in the game, we’re down a goal, and who do you look down the bench and see as your only attacking option? Chris Wondolowski. Don’t get me wrong, he’s great at the MLS level. But that’s just it. He’s a career MLS guy, who at 28 years old, has no future with this team and can’t perform at the international level. Give me Gomez, even Bunbury over Wondo, and they finish that chance. How does Wondolowski consistently get minutes in every game? He’s invisible out there unless he misses a big chance like that. Until that baffling miss, I didn’t even remember he was out there (which is the same of his other USMNT appearances).

    What I think is our best attacking option going forward in the tournament and given players’ current form, I’d start Altidore and Dempsey up top, start Sacha in midfield. Second half you bring Agudelo off the bench for a spark, where he seems to provide his best moments of magic.

    Again, to reiterate, I’m not a Wondo hater… I love watching him score goals in the MLS. But he is in no way, shape, or form capable of playing at this level. And frankly if he sees the field Tuesday I will be livid.

    Those player decisions are what baffle me most about Bob for this tournament. I don’t blame him for the loss tactic-wise at all. His subs played great (Wondo aside), it was just a matter of being outmatched at the back and some sloppy play all around. I’d love to see an early goal Tuesday for a change.


    • Posted by chazcar2 on 2011/06/13 at 4:53 AM

      I wonder if Wondo’s problem is coming off the bench. It seems to take him a several minutes to find the game. Also he isn’t really pacey so coming on and trying to run by people isn’t going to work for him. He is savvy, usually finds the right place to be. He just seems to be lacking the final ball for USMNT. Maybe starting would help him.

      As for Agudelo, I just don’t see him as a fast player. Skillful yes, fast no. Agudelo and Altidore are slight variations on the same type of player. Agudelo is more skillful on the ball, bur Altidore more powerful. Both are not back to goal types who are going to hold the ball and distribute it.

      I would love to see dempsey up top for either Agudelo or Altidore. Then Bedoya in the midfield and Kljestien on for Jones. Also without hindsight I would have started that lineup against Canada and Panama, the spain game was enough for me to see that is our best team, or at the very least worth putting on the field to see how it works.


      • Posted by Dan on 2011/06/13 at 8:41 AM

        I agree, Wondo definitely takes some time to get a feel for the game, which is something we can hardly afford to wait for. It just seems like he’s playing timid at this level… he’d bury that chance from the Panama game 10 times out of 10 for the Quakes.

        I really like your similar thought on putting Deuce up top, and starting Kljestian in midfield. Would your thought be then to use Altidore and Agudelo in the same spot, one subbing in for the other?

        Great point about starting the same lineup too, I would have done the same. They looked great against Canada for the most part, defensively even. And who knew that in the same game Ream and Goodson would lose their marks regularly as Jermaine Jones plays the worst game he’s had in a US shirt? Great sub bringing in Sacha there, I have no complaints about his game. Defensively we’re going to have problems if Ream and Goodson can’t rebound from Saturday. Gooch lacks the speed for these faster teams and there’s really not much else to pick from on the inside. I just wish we’d had a healthy Jay Demerit available.


    • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/06/13 at 6:57 AM

      Bunbury’s mostly awful performance Thursday night against Chicago would seem to at least partially vindicate Bob’s decision to leave him off the roster.


      • Posted by Dan on 2011/06/13 at 8:43 AM

        That’s easy to say now that it’s weeks later after rosters were due.

        I’m also not suggesting Bob should have taken Gomez or Bunbury over Wondo, but rather in addition. Carrying only three forwards when we have nine midfielders seems like very poor planning to me.


        • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/06/13 at 10:10 AM

          Well, yes, it’s “easy to say” now, but how does that invalidate my point? Bob had rated Bunbury’s form as poor, and his latest performance confirms Bob’s assessment.


        • Posted by Martin on 2011/06/13 at 4:32 PM

          Donovan and Dempsey have more US goals than the rest of our striker pool combined.


  19. Posted by Colin on 2011/06/13 at 5:07 AM

    I couldnt watch the match live because I was at a wedding…but I saw a glimpse of the group table at the bar afterwards and was not happy to say the least.

    I watched the whole match last night and have to say, that the US didnt look nearly as bad to me as everyone is making out. Knowing the result, I was expecting to see a much worse performance. The US had more than a handful of chances and on another night, could have scored 4 or 5.

    Panama on the other hand capitalized on 2 of their relatively few chances. It’s not as if the US were dominated on the night. The truth is, the US dominated most of the match, but were still beaten. This isn’t the first time that has happened in football and it wont be the last.

    It just wasn’t their night. Also, its a group stage match and isn’t the end of the world, they face a Guadaloupe side that has 0 points in the group so far and will be missing a starter due to suspension. A win and they move on to the knockout round.

    Also wanted to mention the panamanian GK…he didnt make too many spectacular saves, but seemed to be in the right place all the time. He was a large contributor for Panama and deserves some credit. My biggest complaint with him though was that he seemed to be confused about hurting himself after every play…and got a yellow card eventually for it.


    • Posted by Alex on 2011/06/13 at 6:45 AM

      Guadeloupe has also been playing with 10 men nearly the entire tournament and lost to Canada 1-0 with only 10 and only through a DeRo penalty. I wouldn’t look past Guadeloupe just yet. They have gotten pretty far in this tournament in the past. What if they don’t get a red card against us?


    • Posted by Colin on 2011/06/13 at 6:57 AM

      Just trying to convey that all hope is not lost after 1 loss. The tournament is still very much alive for them.


    • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/06/13 at 7:01 AM

      I’m just hoping Panama gets a result Canada, so that a tie will be sufficient for us to claim second place in the group. Maybe if we have a couple more games to get our house in order before Mexico we can give them a game. If we play them in the quarters, they’ll smoke us right out of the tournament.


      • Posted by Crotalus on 2011/06/13 at 9:18 AM

        You’re crazy. Hope Canada beats Panama and all the non-islands end up with 6, and at 1-1 between them, and we take the group thanks to our 5-0 thrashing of the Gwada Boyz.


  20. Posted by LarryMontanez on 2011/06/13 at 6:46 AM

    It really bothered me that simple give-and-gos by panama right in the heart of our defense gave the defenders so much trouble. The defenders kept getting fooled by this simple move, as they kept chasing the ball and not the man; and it’s not like this was messi and xavi/iniesta doing it, either.


  21. Posted by jb on 2011/06/13 at 8:09 AM

    I agree the Panama loss falls to the players. I just don’t get the “manager is responsible for the players’ motivation” argument. These guys are professionals and just getting the opportunity to wear the USMNT kit should be all the motivation they need. At the beginning of the game, I was fine with the lineup, and the subs were effective. Not sure what else Bob could do. My only question for him would be the roster choices for striker. Would Buddle or Gomez have made a difference? I dont know.

    I maintain the biggest problem for the US team is finishing. After thinking a couple of days on the game, I’ve decided we have to move Dempsey up top. We’ll miss his creativity in midfield, but the horrible finishing is killing us and should force Bob’s hand. Then we will have to trust someone to fill his spot in midfield. Bedoya seems like the best bet to me, as he looked decent in the last match. Regardless, it will make our weak left side even weaker in defense but you cant win if you dont score.


  22. Posted by Durant Durant on 2011/06/13 at 8:09 AM

    This is probably a ridiculous suggestion, but what about Edu, Jones or Spector getting some run at CM? I’ve seen other teams successfully pull back defensive minded CM’s (i.e. Mascherano).


  23. Nice review, thanks Neil. Unfortunately the worries I expressed in my review of the Canada game quickly came home to roost. DVR failure meant I only saw the 2nd 45. I wasn’t entirely displeased with what I saw, especially going forward. But obviously, we didn’t start the match like that.

    I have to quibble with one thing regarding Bob Bradley. I’m troubled by his continued insistence on starting matches against arguably inferior teams with two defensive central midfielders. I think this tends to hand the other team too much of the initiative and yet, when we do dominate possession, actually poses a problem on the counterattack when key defensive players find themselves in too advanced positions.

    Well… hell is freezing today. I think Sacha Kljestan should start the next match, partnered with Bradley in central midfield. He impressed me in his substitute appearance in a way I’ve been waiting for for quite a long time. His Euro move has made him a better player and full credit to Bradley for his inclusion here. Bedoya, with his slashing diagonal runs, was also an important piece. We looked much better as we pressed forward in a 4-2-3-1 after those two came on.

    I maintain that Donovan should never play on the left. He’s not nearly as effective there as he is when combining with Cherundolo on the right. I agree that this team is seriously lacking width on the left, but playing Donovan inside out just isn’t the solution.

    The thing about our beloved Charlie Davies wasn’t so much that he was Charlie Davies but that he ran into the left flank channels, providing advanced width. Bob doesn’t seem to have quite figure out that this was the thing that made it all work back in summer 2009.

    I agree that Altidore and Agudelo are very similar players to line up together in a strike partnership. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. For me it hasn’t really come off yet. If they do start together, Bradley should instruct one of them to play as a left winger. I’m fine with us not having our traditional target forward. There’s no undiscovered Brian McBride hanging around somewhere and the sides attacking ability is miles ahead of where it was back in 2006. Surely it would be better to have Herc Gomez available rather than a Freddy Adu shaped bench decoration?

    The problem with our defending isn’t when we’re bunkering back – it’s when we lose the ball and are transitioning from attack to defense. It’s so often a shambles. That said, you must give credit to Panama’s counterattacking. They were sharp on the counter, got players quickly into the attack and their strikers played the two-man game very well, from what I saw at least.


    • Posted by Izzy on 2011/06/13 at 9:00 AM

      I think Kljestan should be starting as well, but I don’t think it should be in a pairing. I think we should go with a trio of central midfielders, similar to what we had in the World Cup. That lineup allowed us to hold the ball better against teams who counterattacked. Moreover, it solved the problem of width on the left, with Feilhaber, Altidore, and Bornstein(Algeria and Ghana) all willing to push to the left flank. I feel like we should do the same thing here, with a possible twist – Altidore positions himself behind the opponents’ right fullback to either pin him back, put himself in space if the fullback still pushes forward, or drag the centerback out of position. Jozy was often wide left and made the USA look like it had a front three at the World Cup ( Particularly against Algeria, where their 3-4-2-1 made their wingbacks their only source of width, thus making space for Jozy in wide areas).

      Like this:


    • Posted by dth on 2011/06/13 at 5:08 PM

      There’s nothing wrong with having two defensively-minded central midfielders–if you have a three-man central midfield. (Or, like Villarreal, you’re able to move the ball around well in a 4-2-2-2.)


  24. Posted by jtjd723 on 2011/06/13 at 1:37 PM

    I agree the cbacks were exposed but even if we had Mascherano the holding mid was going to look bad sitting behind the rest. everything died in the final third, jones distributed the ball well but there was no fluidity up top and mb & lando were none existint. jones was the only one working hard in the first half.


  25. […] When Panama are not on the counter, it can seem like the “overlaps” and “position switches” are planned and deliberate; those times are fleeting. What Panama ultimately emphasizes, as noted above, is discipline in front of the Baloy four– and outside of “recover possession and break”, they are reluctant to try different things and short on offensive ideas. When in possesion and not on the counter, they rely, as they did in the 2011 Gold Cup, on long balls by Amilcar Henriquez, excellent long throws and crafty strikers who can draw penalties– the best of those being Perez, who will miss the match tonight. Even without Perez, Luis Tejada scores goals, and the Americans will need to respect him. Here’s a link to Neil’s story on what happened to the USMNT the last time they didn&#821… […]


  26. […] Mexico to a playoff instead. The only Panama victory? A 2-1 stunner in Tampa at the 2011 Gold Cup. Neil W. Blackmon was there and recapped it at  The Shin Guardian.   Bob Bradley gets little credit for winning the rematch (THAT FREDDY ADU PASS, and the Dempsey […]


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