TSG’s Official USA vs. Panama Preview: Must Be The Better Men

Deuce doin' work last time...

Deuce doin’ work last time…

The US comes off their thrilling three-point smash-and-grab job in Jamaica and travels cross continent to take on a sneaky CONCACAF foe, Panama, on the to the grass-layered turf of Seattle–the same turf that Friday’s hero “Brad F*cking Evans” calls home. (Game winner video — solid Phil Schoen call.)

After fumbling out of the gate in Honduras in February, the US righted the ship–after this forgotten article spurred controversy–by scaling Costa Rica in the Rockies, drawing in Mexico and then going-Algeria on Jamaica. The States is sitting pretty here with three of its five Hexagonal road games out of the way in qualifying and a manageable four points to show for them.

It’s a quick four-day turnaround and US coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have to contend with losing two of his starting ten outfield rotation, a Panama team that has been the stingiest in the group and this guy in the stands.

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our customary preview.

As usual, it goes:

About The Opponent: Panama

TSG What Are We Looking For

11 At The Whistle

Tuesday’s match may be as much an offensive yawner as the Panama-Mexico 0-0 draw Friday.

About The Opponent: Panama

Ask Juan Agudelo about Panama…

Very quietly Panama has put together a fairly respectable bid for the third ticket to Brazil by way of a difficult defense to solve. Three home games have seen the Panamanians take five out of a possible nine points, but it’s one peel behind those numbers where the truth lies. (Panama drew 1-1 at Jamaica in their single away game to date.)

Panama played Costa Rica well in February’s WCQ opener where only a moment of brilliance from Bryan Ruiz saved a point for the visitors. They then hammered Honduras 2-0. On Tuesday, La Marea Roja scratched their way to a nil-nil draw against the resurgent El Tri. No small feat considering, Panama looked lethargic in their 2-1 friendly tune-up against Peru. Yes, it was a home game, but it’s also Mexico.

For Panama, it all starts off-the-field with arguably the best coach in the region by this publication’s account, Julio Dely Valdes–a dead look-a-like for MMA man Anderson Silva.

Dely Valdez may have not been as accomplished a player as his US foil Jurgen Klinsmann, but he similarly trapsed around the globe in search of the best club opportunity. The former attacker’s career beginnings led him to the Argentinian and the Uruguayan domestic leagues. As his ability started blossoming, there was a hop over the pond to PSG, Real Ovieda and then Malaga–yes that PSG and that Malaga. For his national team he tallied 22 times in 32 games as a player. Respectable.

It is rather odd than given Dely Valdes travels to more-attacking sides that his Panamanian side has been marked by a desire to instill a disciplined defense in a Central American side. That’s like asking Stoke City to go Tiki-taka with Charlie Adam employed as the Scottish Xavi. (Sorry Barry Bannan, you’re not quite there yet.)

It’s been Dely Valdes ability to enforce a defensive scheme that has led La Marea Roja this far, but also the team’s tendency to lose focus within that scheme for blocks of game time that has led to opponent tallies and some head-banging frustrations.

It was a momentary slip-up against the States of course at the Gold Cup back in 2011 that saw Bob Bradley steward his Yanks through Panama’s straits to the GC final in Pasadena. A famous Freddy Adu pass the loan breach in a game where both sides worked feverishly–and anti-instinctually it appeared at times–to keep shape.

It says a lot–about the coach and the team–that the US respected Panama’s integrity as to play a game of “Who blinks first” rather than “I’ll make you blink” in the elimination match in 2011.

(Two excellent tactical reviews of that match can be found here and here).

Bradley employed that strategy of course because his team had capitulated in the group stage, losing 2-1 to a Dely Valdes side that overran ran a stretched midfield–Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones played catch-up more than shut-down for the better part of ninety minutes that day.

The second goal in that match, an infamous penalty after the squirrelly–can 6’1” strikers be squirrelly?–Blas Perez duped Tim Ream into a penalty at the edge of the box. One minute before that play was the current apex of Tim Ream’s national team career–somewhere Andrew Jean Baptiste and many others cringe and Perez’s eyes twinkle.

The four charts above show represent the defensive engagement of Panama--the two on top are the Panama Gold Cup games against the States; the two charts below are Panama's two most recent qualifiers. No secrets; defend and counter.

The four charts above show represent the defensive engagement of Panama–the two on top are the Panama Gold Cup games against the States; the two charts below are Panama’s two most recent qualifiers. No secrets; defend deep and counter.

With their standard and deep two banks of four on defense, their double pivot with two wingers squishing in and great interplay between their two forwards, it would be spot-on to consider Panama the Slovenia of CONCACAF. A team that must be respected on the counter and probed at carefully on defense to break down.

Baloy for Panama


On the field, the starting point for Panama is Felipe “Pepe” Baloy.

The Santos Laguna strongman and Panama captain should just be called “Curtains,” because if he has you locked up in a 1-v-1 situation, your attack it over.

Ask Juan Agudelo who was brimming with confidence in that second 2011 Gold Cup elimination game–coming of a solid game against Jamaica–and who Baloy put in his place in the food chain.

Here’s what Agudelo had to say about his Baloy 2011 encounter after his Revs’ game this Saturday: (The “drug” comment made tongue-in-cheek out of respect, not accusation.)

“It wasn’t really fun playing against him. He’s strong. Like…he needs to get tested for some drugs, I don’t know. But, he’s really strong, and he’s fast. I think if you’re quick and you really don’t try to get into a physical battle with him, it’ll work.”

(This fantastic quote courtesy of Steve Stoehr of killer New England Rev’s blog, The Bent Musket.)

That just about paints it. (Any quick forwards out there for the States? Davies? Gyau? Barrett?).

Baloy enables the Panama defense to be stout in the box on set pieces, but it’s track down speed that is necessary on the frequent counters to Panama’s own counterattack.

Behind Baloy is veteran backstop Jaime Pineda, a solid shot stopper who enables Panama’s counter as well with his scampering-out ability on over-the-top balls. Pineda always seems to play strong against the States. The three men that Baloy marshals are Carlos Rodríguez, Román Torres and Leonel Parris. Torres plays in the Colombia league and is more a chaser than stand-up defender. The vet Parris takes up the right side–he is an unknown to TSG–while former erstwhile FC Dallas defender Carlos Rodriguez is the main stay on the left.

Panama unfurling on the counter.

Panama unfurling on the counter.

(Panama uses it’s front five to get into the attack. Gomez typically shields but can come forward. Occasionally, Parris will get ahead on the right, but Rodriguez has been apt to stay home, especially against stronger sides. More here….)

Ahead in the midfield in the 4-4-2 set, Panama has their own double pivot/their own Jones-Bradley pairing of Amílcar Henríquez and former Union man Gabriel Gómez. The pairing took up residency there in 2010, so the understanding is solid.

Henriquez plays the higher of the two, typically looking for penetrating balls to Blas Perez*; Gomez is the clean-up man of the center aisle and typically moves right and aft to a pure CDM role when La Marea Roja attack.

Luis Henriquez and Marcos Sánchez are the tucking-in wide midfielders. Sanchez has something to prove here in Seattle as his club team–DC United–recently released him just two weeks ago after a poor opening to his campaign. That’s right, DC United released him. Henriquez has been deputizing at left midfield to give Carlos Rodriguez some cover–he’s a defender by trade.

Up top is now a massive question mark unfortunately for Panama. *Blas Perez will miss Tuesday’s game with gastroenteritis. Massive may even be an understatement. Whereas everything in the back keys off of Baloy, everything in the front was to have keyed of Perez. He’s an outlet when under pressure and can maintain the ball allowing Panama to come up the field.

He’s also runs the right channel exceedingly well and  can get you set pieces with crafty, borderline-cheating play and he’s pretty solid on the shot.

More so, his partner Luis Tejada feeds of his movement and the space Perez creates. If Perez gains the channel, Tejada cuts underneath. If Perez makes a far post run, Tejada makes a near post run–precisely the type of interchange and movement that can force a younger centerback pairing to looks to the stands for their mommy. Watch the pair’s movement here in their 2011 Gold Cup group stage match against Guadeloupe, a 3-2 win…. …or don’t watch–with Perez out Dely Valdez has a big decision to make in terms of personnel and sequencing.

There are essentially two main options for the coach and one reach one. The first and most likely option would be the insertion of youngster Rolando Blackburn for Perez. Here’s everything you wanted to know see on Blackburn in 14 minutes.He’s a well-rounded player with good handles and likely the best option.

The next option is to go 4-5-1 and use Nelson Baronha–more a winger–or Rolando Escobar–a more central player–as an attacker behind Tejada. This seems unlikely since Panama solves their linking by tucking in their midfielders and the US would like be able to control the ball for long stretches and starve a lone forward of Tejada of service, however it would slow the US’s deep distribution. And … it’s the configuration (with Baronha) the Panamanians used last time they went against the States without Perez.

The final option–and least likely–is to go with the closet clone to Perez to mimic his movement. This would be Edwin Aguilar who hasn’t got off the bench this year for La Marea Roja.

For the States, it’s very simple. Don’t get caught on the counter. Communicate and track the forwards movement from the second a turnover happens, specifically the key man Tejada. Play down the left side to avoid 1-vs-1 tangles with Felipe Baloy. Gain the lead.

TSG What Are We Looking For

» I’m Your Huckleberry!

No way to get around it. The sub-ins for this match are critical, most importantly who if Michael Bradley’s new Jermaine Jones.

In Panama’s 2011 Gold Cup group stage win, Dely Valdes four midfielders centrally overran the two US CMs (Bradley and Jones.) It was a Jermaine Jones foul that led to Panama’s first goal in that game after having to play catch-up. It was a Michael Bradley pursuit and failure to close that led to the entry pass to Blas Perez and a Tim Ream foul and the second goal.

There is certainly a chance the US goes 4-3-3 in this match with both Kljestan and Cameron coming in as linkers. (BTW, this would’ve been a perfect game for Kyle Beckerman.)

Regardless of formation the US needs to two things to slow down the Panamainains on their counter–how do they do this with new guys employed.

Pressure the exit pass–this means getting behind the ball in a hurry or either Dempsey or Fabian Johnson forcing balls to the outside (Panama wants their first pass central on the counter, not out side to slow it down.)

Second, awareness and positioning. This is not as easy as it sounds. The US doesn’t want to either drop too deep in central midfield cover or think negatively and not keep the initiative–they are at home. They want to take and make good with the space that Panama provides them. Big decision making here for at minimum for the new likely pairing of Michael Bradley and Geoff Cameron.

» “Horsehoes!” Winning the first and second ball. This is simple stuff.

Panama in possession against Canada away (Sept. 2012) and Jamaica away (March 2012). In short, not in possession--they don't get caught in it and don't care about building from the back.

Panama in possession against Canada away (Sept. 2012) and Jamaica away (March 2012).

Those pretty pictures below with all the vertical slants? That’s Panama in possession in two of its last three away qualifiers–at Canada, September 2012 (a loss) and at Jamaica, March 2013 (a draw).

Nearly zero ball possession in dangerous space in Panama’s defensive third. If Panama doesn’t push the counter quickly (inside-outside-inside usually in three steps), it gets the ball out of dangerous spots.

Panama–as many teams who feast on the counter–loves fractured chances and with a US team that has trouble winning the second ball–and an unpredictable surface in Seattle–that part of the States’ game needs to improve. In short, this phase of the game needs to be won.

» Spatial Relations

No Graham Zusi, no space.

Shocking to say and scary in practice. Graham Zusi’s wide play has been instrumental in the US finding some attacking flow in recent. Zusi, of course, sits this one.

With a Panama team that is going to defend deep, the US should have some possession. How they use that possession to manufacture chances is another thing. Compound the Zusi loss with the questions of how loose Jozy Altidore can get on Baloy… oh and that divot-centric turf and this riddle is a tough one for Klinsmann’s staff.

Altidore's distribution in the 2011 group stage loss against Panama--Bob Bradley moved him away from interlocking with Baloy (who plays LCB).

Altidore’s distribution in the 2011 group stage loss against Panama–Bob Bradley moved him away from interlocking with Baloy (who plays LCB).

In 2011 group stage, Bob Bradley so respected Baloy that after Altidore ran rampant on Canada he doubled up with a start to put Agudelo on Baloy and moved the in-a-groove Altidore out to the left and left flank.

In the follow-up game, Bradley played cat-and-mouse with Dely Valdes until inserting none-other-than-Freddy-Adu in place of the dominated Agudelo to great some spacing up top.

There are many ways to get width in the attack. Early 4-3-3’s saw Klinsmann look to jam a winger high on the left with an overlapping Cherundolo on the right.

The horrendous Honduras loss saw Klinsmann rely on two fullbacks to get up the pitch.

Tuesday will likely see much more demanded from Fabian Johnson and ironically enough Johnson’s best game at LM game against … Slovenia where he and Tim Chandler and, yes, Edson Buddle combined for some interplay on the left flank. That was two strikers for Klinsmann that day.

This is Fabian Johnson in possession and his distribution against Slovenia in 2011. He'll need to make some corner and incising runs to create width (like he tried for 10 minutes against Jamaica on Friday)

This is Fabian Johnson in possession and his distribution against Slovenia in 2011. He’ll need to make some corner and incising runs to create width (like he tried for 10 minutes against Jamaica on Friday)

The US will likely look to hit at Panama’s right side backline pairing similar to that match with Fabian Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley coupling to attack that side. Johnson’s ability to in-cut and to take on players–with Zusi–absent would seem like requirement in Seattle.


» The Elements – A lot to tough out for the players and fans in Seattle

›› The field. One word: BLECH! Grass-on-turf. That’s the definition of “not home field advantage” if your team prefers not to play on it as well.

›› The imbibement. Perhaps it’s changed. But if you’re a US fan–fellow FC Black Sox mates Kart and Biggy take note–choose two small beers over one big one.

›› Given all those elementary issues, it’s not wonder that Zillow says a cool purchase of the stadium stands at a paltry $425,000. Bid 25% over asking; it’s still worth it.

›› More history – The US has played Panama once already in Jurgen Klinsmann’s reign. A 1-0 victory to close January 2012’s Cupcake Camp. Graham Zusi played the hero in that one with an early goal; Geoff Cameron was goat-ish with a red card on …. you guessed it, Blas Perez. For a review of that one, click here.

11 At The Whistle

What the US moving into the attack against Panama might look like...

What the US moving into the attack against Panama might look like…

G: Tim Howard

If only Tony Hibbert were here. (BTW, if Leighton Baines could play any defense for Everton, he'd be world class.)

If only Tony Hibbert were here. (BTW, if Leighton Baines could play any defense for Everton, he’d be world class.)

The skinny: For Tim Howard, set pieces and corners into the box haven’t been as easy as easy as knocking down clay pigeons from the skies over the past 18 months as we noted in this piece. Howard again on Friday got caught indecisive on coming out on the Jamaican goal (yes, it was offsides.) When he does come out, he’s often besieged with a case of the Kuyties. Danger area for the US.

DEF: Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley.

The skinny: No need to reinvent wall.

CM: Geoff Cameron, Michael Bradley

The skinny: Early in the 2012-2013 Tony Pulis was so in love with Geoff Cameron’s versatility that he used him at RB, LB, CDM & FD (Forward Destroyer).

Now Pulis is gone, there was a pig head in the Stoke lockerroom and Cameron gets to show off his Shane Battierness.



RM, LM: Joe Corona (or Brad Davis or Sacha Kljestan), Fabian Johnson

The skinny: If the plan is to advance on the left through Johnson then Davis staying at home on the right is a possibility. He can’t gain the corner on his right foot though and he hasn’t been a sharp defender with the US; that’s a problem. Sacha Kljestan out wide if merely for the illusion of width.

(Klinsmann loves to throw players into the fire. Without Danny Williams here, Corona is probably the fastest true midfielder. We’ll take a gambit.) Eddie Johnson won’t be called on early here in this role with Herculez Gomez out and defensive cover still needed over Evans.

WtF: Clint Dempsey

The skinny: Again in the withdrawn forward role, or the what-the-f*ck role if you prefer. As in “whatever-the-f-you-need” or “What the f did he just do?”

STR: Jozy Altidore

The skinny: Altidore goes back to the town where Freddy Adu scored his last goal in a US shirt–against Grenada in 2009. [Got nothing here today on Altidore.]

Any chance as well the US goes true 4-4-2 in this one and has the twin towers of Boyd and Altidore above? (It was against the rigid 4-4-2 of Slovenia in 2011 that similar actors (Altidore, Fab Johnson) had two of their best games.) Just tossing that out there. Carry on…

80 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Scweeb on 2013/06/10 at 11:03 AM

    So question on roster. Sense we had to let I believe danny williams go back to club cause of fittness does that mean JK could call somebody back in? Cause with HERC, Holden, and Shea both with fittness or injury issues i think we need to call someone in. If so i think this would be the time for the LD to make his case.


  2. Posted by James H on 2013/06/10 at 11:13 AM

    Donovan (or Landycakes if you prefer), would sure be nice to have right about now…


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/10 at 11:15 AM

      Not quite sure it’s good to bring him in now. He hasn’t been in a US camp since–well I’m not quite sure.

      What you don’t want is deference to a player who hasn’t been there. If the US isn’t/wasn’t getting Jones back for Honduras (and I don’t know the severity of Jones injury) then this would be bigger deal.

      But the States have enough talent in-house now to beat Panama and they should.


      • Posted by Scweeb on 2013/06/10 at 11:31 AM

        So Matt can JK call someone in?


      • Posted by James H on 2013/06/10 at 11:34 AM

        All I know is that Donovan can play both left and right and I’m fairly certain he would be good with the team. He may have issues with the coach… but that is understandable. I think Donovan has earned a little respect with US soccer and it’s probably time Klinsman showed him some. Klinsman seems to think he’s caught in some alpha battle with LD, but I think he’s misreading the situation. But then again, maybe LD called him a German weinershnitz one day in practice in front of the team and it was off to the doghouse.


        • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2013/06/10 at 2:48 PM

          JK has made a point of saying the team has enough players and is well covered. I’m sure this is his way of showing confidence in them.

          So calling in Donovan for Panama seems very unlikely.

          If things go poorly on the other hand, if the US comes out of the Panama game with a bunch of injuries or is in card hell, calling LD in for Honduras may suddnely become more appealing.

          There is no alpha battle between JK and LD. Everyone knows who is the boss now.

          I’m pretty sure JK is prepared to go to the World Cup, if they qualify, w/o LD if he does not do the things asked of him.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/10 at 11:15 AM

      That said, there is no doubt that–if committed–Donovan doesn’t regain a starting spot.


      • Posted by Scweeb on 2013/06/10 at 11:43 AM

        I understand not wanting to play someone new and i agree but with an open spot i would think that training time with the team would be needed to strengthen the team when it comes time for the mexico game. Not saying that it is LD that comes in but there a some guys that should get some looks and this is perfect time to get them on the same page.


        • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2013/06/10 at 2:51 PM

          Panama just held Mexico 0-0. This is not the time to ” get some looks ” at players. This is not a team to be underestimated.

          If the US beats them and Honduras there is a good chance the Mexico game will be irrelevant,.


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/10 at 3:01 PM

            At home, in Seattle, after a win. Much easier place to “throw someone into the fire” than the Azteca (Besler).


            • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2013/06/10 at 3:21 PM

              I have no problem with playing, for example, Corona, if JK believes he’s good enough to go 90 and help win the game. He’s either good enough or he isn’t.

              But I would not want JK to play him if he was just going to see “how he does” or just to get a look. That’s insane.

              Right now the US is in a good spot but a loss to Panama, with maybe another guy or two lost to cards, like Mikey, or injury, like Jozy and Fabian, for example and this thing suddenly gets pretty ugly.

            • Posted by scweeb on 2013/06/10 at 7:43 PM

              Well right now we have 7 starters with yellows and have sent 2 guys home cause of fitness, we have and holden and shea still there. So what i was more getting at is that JK always wants the team to have played together for some time and that getting players in the system is best. So with that in mind is why i say bringing someone into the team. Not to take a spot from guys who have been there but when it comes down to 3 games down the road we might have some back up if need be.

  3. Posted by Crow on 2013/06/10 at 11:13 AM

    You tweeted about possibly seeing Altidore paired with Boyd (or maybe Johnson). Don’t you think this would be the game to try that?

    I would like to see Corona in Zusi’s place instead of Klejstan or Davis.

    As a fan I would love to see Holden replace Jones but I doubt that is going to happen or even if it should. Maybe being at home you could be a little more agressive/risktaking Cameron looked solid there in replacement, but I wish we could get the guy a position.

    First time in Seattle for me ever. Lets see if these fans live up to the hype.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/10 at 11:17 AM

      I did tweet about Boyd-Altidore — I would guess it’s possible (and i’ll add it above).
      Thanks for the reminder.


    • Posted by James H on 2013/06/10 at 11:38 AM

      Boyd and Altidore? Could be dangerous or it could be two strong fellas just standing around alot looking buff. I don’t think JK would ever try this in a game that mattered (at least to start). Klinsmann seems to have a loose pecking order, and I would expect to see Sacha filling in at Zusi’s spot. Now if Fabian’s hammy keeps him out then this pose a real problem for the coach, because everyone else would seem to have a fitness, injury or experience issue.


      • Posted by Union on 2013/06/10 at 11:52 AM

        I’ve long said that its only a matter of time before Boyd starts producing. I still think he’s raw, a lot more raw than I felt he was initially. He gets overly excited and makes some boneheaded decisions. Not sure he has yet developed the type of intelligence off the ball that will allow he and Jozy to work well together. BUT.. I think he is fast and energetic enough to track back and help out. It won’t just be too big guys playing up top.

        I’d give it a shot. But we all know Dempsey isnt a CAM.


        • Posted by James H on 2013/06/10 at 12:17 PM

          Agreed there. I would prefer to have Dempsey attacking from the left mid spot meself. But, Klinsmann seems to be locked into Demps in the WtF role (so aptly described above). Sure wish he’d rid himself of that notion – I think there is a better option there if he’s going to stay with this 4-2-3-1. If not, go with Demps on the left and two legitimate strikers as you say. A healthy Herc would probably work well with Altidore.


          • Posted by Byrdmantsg on 2013/06/11 at 8:12 AM

            Dempsey’s most recent role has been quite productive. Maybe we shouldn’t change what has produced a lot of goals lately


  4. Posted by Union on 2013/06/10 at 11:42 AM

    I really don’t like the Brad Davis option. Everyone keeps talking about him and his left foot, but people, he can’t play defense and he isn’t quick enough on the wing to even get in a position to make dangerous crosses. So his one asset is pretty much set pieces. You can’t have a winger on the field solely for set pieces. I think its worth keeping Fabian on the left and giving Corona a start. I’d even love to see Holden get the start, but I think that is a far fetched idea.


    • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2013/06/10 at 2:54 PM

      There have been reports that this temp grass field is not great. Not the best time or place to risk Holden’s or any other less than fit player’s knees.


      • Posted by Crow on 2013/06/10 at 3:56 PM

        Good point


      • Posted by KickinNames.... on 2013/06/11 at 6:15 AM

        Soooooo then WTF are we playing a qualifier in a stadium without a good solid natural turf that suits the style our manager is trying to instill? This one boggles the mind for me. There are dozens of soccer appropriate stadium options across the country and we are catering to Seattle, why….?

        Klestjan for Zusi is just an exercise in uselessness IMO. Like giving up a sector of the pitch before the game even starts. Same problem as Davis. He doesn’t have the speed or evasiveness to stretch the defense and so we’ll end up with a clogged central attack at top of the box. I’d rather you try Shea or someone with reasonable pass and attacking desire even on the wrong side then waste a spot with Klestjan out wide.


        • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/06/11 at 7:39 AM

          I don’t know that speed is important against a team you know is going to defend deep. What you need is width and good passing. I agree that Kljestan might not be good because of his tendency to come inside. Also Davis might not work because of occupying the same space as Dempsey at times. But speed on offense, I don’t think is important in this game. Defensive recovery speed will be important as the will look to break on the counter, but likely with only the front 4.


          • Posted by KickinNames.... on 2013/06/11 at 8:15 AM

            Speed and evasiveness to get that 1/2 yd on the defender and get the ball into the box is what’s needed with the current attacking personnel. This squad does not have the ability to walk it in through the center of pitch and Zusi’s ability to create that space and deliver accurate service has been what’s working in the latest run of decent form.
            Neither Klestjan nor Davis brings that out wide.


            • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/06/11 at 10:27 AM

              I think we are talking about different kinds of “speed”. I am referring to top end speed, you are talking about acceleration/small space speed. The fastest player on the team in a 60-70 yard sprint is likely Cameron or Besler. But that burst of acceleration is what one needs to beat a defender. I agree that Kljestan doesn’t really have that. Davis I am not sure about. Zusi does have that ability to create 1 or 2 yards of space without the speed or burst of an elite winger (I think Theo Walcott/ Gareth Bale).

  5. Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/06/10 at 11:47 AM

    -The last three games either Zusi or Davis took almost every free kick. I think we see Davis for that service on corners.
    -Altidore likes to come from the left toward the goal. Just watch a highlight reel on Altidore and its obvious. Missing Zusi’s service from the right is a problem


    4-4-2 Diamond

    Davis ——Altidore———-Eddie


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/10 at 11:50 AM

      Excellent point on the dead ball service–especially against Panama. Hadn’t even thought about that. Another nod towards Davis.


      • Posted by Crow on 2013/06/10 at 3:58 PM

        But against a team like Panama that can defend free kicks wouldn’t it be better to try to target them on the ground instead of sacrificing an attacking player who is just a one trick pony like Davis?


        • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/06/11 at 6:28 AM

          I don’t know that Davis is a one trick pony. I just think the problem against belgium was playing both Zusi and Davis. They both are hard working possession types. Maybe not great speed. I actually think Davis with beasley overlapping can be a good combo. With Evans not necessarily having great speed I think we need speed on the right if we put Davis in.

          One other thing that is important in my mind is how much more success this team has when we play more unbalanced right instead of unbalanced left.


    • Posted by SamT on 2013/06/10 at 1:04 PM

      On the topic of set piece service… Agree Zusi has been key. One wildcard in this department is Bradley. He has provided some great service off set pieces in the past. The only problem with that, of course, is that Bradley can’t also be on the other end of it. But with Dempsey, Omar, Altidore, and possibly Cameron all in the box, that might just be fine.


      • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2013/06/11 at 6:05 AM

        I think Bradley’s set piece delivery has suffered since going to roma. Not had as much work with it. Totti takes everything.


  6. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/10 at 12:30 PM

    This is Panama’s fullback positioning in their last two *home games against quality sides. Their fullbacks rarely got into attack; Parris getting a bit higher on the right because Panama pushed through Blas Perez who won’t be there Tuesday.

    Against Mexico Friday night:

    Rodriguez – LB

    Parris – RB

    Against Honduras (in a *win)

    Rodriguez – LB

    Parris – RB


  7. Posted by Alex on 2013/06/10 at 12:39 PM

    I’m not positive, but I don’t think Davis has ever shown the ability/inclination to cut inside as he would need to if he plays as an inverted winger on the right. Granted he doesn’t need to do it on the left, but playing on the right requires a totally different skill set for such a left-footed player. Not sure he has the speed/craft/quickness to pull it off, although if he doesn’t play, the set pieces become more interesting. Kljestan might not be a bad option there. Has Corona ever taken a significant number?


  8. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/10 at 12:54 PM

    2011 Gold Cup elimination game (also played without Perez).

    Screen shot 2013-06-10 at 12.59.56 PM


    • Posted by JGD on 2013/06/10 at 1:22 PM

      Bedoya’s a player we could use at the moment. In fine form for Helsingborgs recently and capable of playing on either wing. I expect he’ll see a lot of time for the national team next month.


  9. Century Link has 2 bedrooms according to Zillow, who knew!


  10. Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/06/10 at 3:36 PM

    Please God, just no Kljestan. Not even in warm ups. Play with 10 if we have to.


  11. Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/06/10 at 3:39 PM

    PS- Holden is just not sharp enough yet ………………..but if it comes down to between him and Kljestan – everybody repeat – in your best Game of Thrones imitation
    “HOLDEN” over and over again.


  12. Posted by JGD on 2013/06/10 at 4:38 PM

    You have to ask yourself (and I’m sure Klinsmann has asked himself this): assuming we’re sticking with a 2-man central midfield, would I rather have Bradley holding and Kljestan pushing forward, or Bradley pushing forward and Cameron holding? It’s the latter for me.


  13. Posted by mark on 2013/06/10 at 5:10 PM

    I’d rather not have Kljestan involved in the game at all–he was a non-factor in the prior Panama game as I recall and won’t fare well against a rugged defense on a choppy grass-on-turf field. I think Klinsmann will substitute Cameron for Jones, with F. Johnson on the right in place of Zusi, and Brad Davis on the left wing. With Perez out, the U.S. should assume a more attack-minded approach to the match than they might have otherwise. With that in mind, I’d like to see Corona come in for Zusi to help push the tempo. E. Johnson could also fill that role, but he’s better getting on the end of cross than making them.


    • Posted by Kevin_H on 2013/06/11 at 9:31 AM

      I’m thinking it will be more of a Cameron substitute for Bradley, and a Bradley substitute for Jones.


  14. This is some great discussion and possible options. I’m really enjoying reading these posts. Because of this, I have no clue as to who will start for Zusi. Arguments have been made that Davis can do well on set pieces but concerns with his speed/defense ability. As we all know when Zusi would come out of games, we have usually added Davis to continue to have a player for set plays. Before Davis, it was Gomez and he’s not available. Then there is the Kljestan comments and I totally agree… please NO Kljestan (I’ve just never been a big fan of his) to start. Corona is intriguing but do we go with two, technically, new players on the right side? Evans, who has played well in 2 games and now add another new player on the right? Not sure. EJ is not known for his defensive abilities so he’s a concern but he’s played LM before and put in the work to help defend. Could Holden surprise? Doubtful. So where are we… I’m really not sure as who to start. Gut says Fabian stays on left and comes out for Castillo like last game and so that leaves either Corona, Davis, EJ or Kljestan. I’m going with EJ. He’s a veteran and with his speed could really surprise with Johnson on the left. I go with EJ. Davis a close 2nd and Corona a close 3rd. I’m just not sure where Corona is as I’ve only seen him play for the U23 team and he looked really good.


    • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/06/11 at 5:31 AM

      I would agree with you on EJ if I thought he would mark ANYONE. But the man just does not seem interested and was responsible, culpable , you pick a work for the Jamaican goal.

      I go with Cameron and Bradley with Bradley playing the the offensive position and give Corona a shot at filling in for Zusi. Just to see what happens even though It goes against my grain to use Mexican American players vs. physical Central and South Americans and I consider Panama more of a Ecuadorian type side. Evens- he is known quantity and that is that so not starting hing him brings no surprises.

      I give Kljestan directions to the Timbers stadium.


  15. […] of organized, tactical chaos that features and promotes, above all else, defensive discipline. How? The best analysis, in this writer’s view, can be found over at The Shin Guardian, and as such, here is the link. An abbreviated analysis- that differs in a couple […]


  16. Panama puts 11 behind the ball and our chances come from set pieces. Nobody’s working space up the middle of the field, esp with Panama’s narrow midfield. So even Holden or Corona in a playmaker role is a tough ask. I would get Brad Davis on the field somehow for service, even though he’s slow. Could see Omar or Cameron scoring. Unless Jozy ends up in a 1v1 on a counter of a counter.


  17. This would be the perfect game for Herc being a pest on one of the wings.


  18. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/06/11 at 8:53 AM

    Anyone know how Panama is set up defensively in terms of how high their line is, how far their midfield four are in front, and how compact they generally play – ie how effective are they in denying the opposition space to play between the lines?

    I am suspecting the US will adopt some variation of MM when in possession.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/06/11 at 2:44 PM

      Very effective. Read the preview George. :). Or watch the group stage game in 2011 when the US couldn’t do squat.


  19. Posted by Nathan Bland on 2013/06/11 at 12:30 PM

    Hey matthewsf … can I get an email address from you? If not, no worries, thanks!


  20. Posted by Turd Ferguson on 2013/06/11 at 10:12 PM

    Geoff Cameron = grown ass fucking animal. At least that’s what I saw tonight.


    • Posted by fellaini'sfro on 2013/06/11 at 11:01 PM

      +1 on that. He played multiple roles. The distributor, the destroyer and the link up artist. Heck, on that over the top pass to EJ he even did a nice impression of Andrea Pirlo without the full beard.


    • Posted by Crow on 2013/06/12 at 9:37 AM

      I was driving my neighbors nuts last night singing my praises for Cameron I think. I can’t remember a more dominant performance by a member of the USMNT. Absolutely ridiculous considering he plays a new position every game. He won every single ball in the midfield. Maybe Cameron is coming full circle? Back to midfield. I like him at CB but Gonzalez and Besler seem to play better together.


      • Posted by Dirk on 2013/06/14 at 1:05 PM

        Does anyone think Klinsman will leave a healthy Jones on the bench to play Cameron alongside Bradley? I say he likes Jones waaaayyyy more than he should and Cameron will unfortunately be back on the bench.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/06/12 at 7:44 PM

      IMO, he was the best player last night. Not saying Altidore or Bradley were not excellent also, but Cameron was different class – both defensively and offensively. I read Wahl’s praise of Bradley’s secondary assist for the first goal, but not one mention of who won possession and started the transition…

      Makes a big difference to the collective performance when every individual probably had at least a 6 or 7 out of 10 performance. Not sure I can remember when that happened previously.


  21. Posted by KickinNames.... on 2013/06/12 at 4:06 AM

    Wow. Did I just see what I thought I saw? This looked like this team became a collective team last night for the first time.

    So maybe there is something to playing the same back four for multiple games huh?
    And how good was it to see Klinsi make all the right, logical, sensible roster picks and have them work like clock work?.
    Cameron was a beast in that holder/destroyer role and gave you much of what Jones can without all the recklessness. I thought he was fantastic considering it was his first starting assignment in the role and once he was comfortable, BOSSED IT! And as a bonus, his sitting in let Mike get forward and be the Box to Box force that we’ve been wishing and hoping he’d be for years. That run on the first Altidore goal was just beautiful team soccer at its best. Demps first runs off the defender to allow Mike to carry it into space and then checks his run to give the passing lane for Johnson to Jozy. Fabs with the perfect far post ball. And Jozy busting his ass all over the park tonite!
    A lot of things seemed to come together last night against a good Panama team. It’s looking up.


    • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/06/12 at 4:42 AM

      Yes it is. We played with purpose, direction and no Sacha K.

      We may be going places………..LIKE BRAZIL.


    • Posted by Jim on 2013/06/12 at 5:09 AM

      “And how good was it to see Klinsi make all the right, logical, sensible roster picks and have them work like clock work?”

      Although I was a little doubtful of the decision to play E. Johnson on the right… Until he made pretty good touches and good decisions from the get-go. And he even stayed wide for the most part. He did well to fight the urge to drift inside. Perfectly timed run on that Pirlo ball from Cameron.


  22. Posted by Jim on 2013/06/12 at 5:19 AM

    Did anyone else about piss themselves in the first half, every time Panama in possession even looked at our right flank?

    My respects to Brad Evans, he has provided some needed depth at right back, but he has really shown his limitations with 1v1 defending against quick/fast players. I’m relieved that neither Jamaica nor Panama capitalized on chances created by beating him 1v1. Props to him though, for playing out of position and doing what was asked of him… Oh yea, and maybe scoring a friggin’ game winning goal. O’ the wonders of Qualifying, where a man who plays the hero one summer doesn’t even crack the roster for the WC.


    • Posted by Jim on 2013/06/12 at 5:29 AM

      Also, I couldn’t tell who was playing LB half the time. It’s definitely a different dynamic. It was nice having two players relatively adept at defending and going forward overlap each other while one provides defensive cover. I’m not sure what other flavor combinations we have in our pool that combine in the same way. Shea? Castillo? Donovan (if he has to wrench a position on the left)? That ball from F. Johnson reminded me of Beasley’s ball to Dempsey in the ’06 WC.


    • Posted by James H on 2013/06/12 at 7:44 AM

      True on Evans, but who else can you hope to put there. Cherundolo, at what 34 and recovering from injury is a big question mark now and I would not be surprised if his level of play has dipped beneath international standards at this point. Chandler is hurt and I don’t think he would have fared any better (and probably worse) than Evans in 1v1 defending. So after Dolo, Chandler, and Cameron, Evans is option #4 there. Which means options #5, #6 and #7 are either unknowns, unprovens from the poool (ie Beltran), or someone on the current squad who will have to play “out of position” like Evans (say a Fabian Johnson). My opinion is that Evans will give you enough; keep the back four consistent and let some chemistry develop. The opponents will always try to exploit a weakness based on their strengths. Last night Panaman focused on Evans, but the entire defensive group worked as a unit, compensated and covered for each other. For other teams, they’ll go after Beas, or the central area – it just depends. It’s how our back four react as a unit that is important, and last night was a huge step for that group.


      • Posted by Shawn on 2013/06/12 at 10:42 AM

        Let’s not forget that a somewhat slow, but smart Bocanegra was our 1st choice LB. Evans may not be the best RB, but he may be the best option when looking at the collective back four. It’s hard to see Chandler as part of this group. He may be talented, but the communication barrier (doesn’t really know the guys, doesn’t speak great English still) could create more defensive lapses between the CB and him. Evans for now, but would like to see the Gold Cup be a good trial for RB/LB options going forward. Listed Gold Cup LB/RB options Corey Ashe, Tony Beltran, Castillo. Would it be worth a try for a healthy Stuart Holden at RB? I know he plays best centrally, but could he do the same job as Evans with greater potential?


  23. Posted by James H on 2013/06/12 at 8:31 AM

    Just how good was Geoff Cameron last night? He was really the key to the USA’s success. If Cameron doesn’t perform well you can assume that Panama would have pressured more through the middle and Bradley would have had to stay deeper to help defend, probably negating at least one of our goals. Instead, Cameron comes out of the gates like an aforementioned beast; sure he misplaces a few of his passes going forward, but he’s all over the field breaking up Panama attacks, he’s linking with the back four and Bradley and he’s allowing the General to venture forward where MB can be devestating at times. And Cameron did this all with composure and no yellow cards. And although Jones has been consistent and solid lately, Bradley is a bit more restrained with Jones’ tendancies on the field. While I expect Jones to be back in that spot when recovered, the Panama match has to have given Klinsman plenty to think about regarding his central midfield. More evidence is required so I hope Jones is rested and Cameron gets another call against Honduras. In any case, what a great development for the US.


    • Posted by Crow on 2013/06/12 at 9:39 AM

      Cameron can fill in anywhere it seems but his play in the midfield was world class and that is no exaggeration.


  24. Posted by Crow on 2013/06/12 at 9:42 AM

    Very impressed with Seattle last night. It still would have been nice to maybe have 10,000 more but boy was it loud when the whole crowd did the ‘clap’ or some of the call and response chants. The supporter section was ridiculous. I know some here like to ridicule some of the ‘antics’ of ECS etc but they are organized and get the job done. It makes most of MLS/US Soccer venues look like a joke in comparison.

    I like what Deuce said about feeling like you’re in another country. It doesn’t matter the age/race/gender/background everyone is going to the game. I was camping out at the airport overnight and a man in his 70’s started talking to me about the game- he has Sounders season tickets. You wouldn’t even know the Mariners were playing a game. Hopefully in the not too distant future it can be like this everywhere in the USA.


    • Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/06/12 at 10:11 AM

      Nice points Crow. Seattle is our best “Futbol” Town in America – closely followed by Portland.(Want to be #1 Portland? – Expand your stadium and put down real grass)

      Notice in the cold light of a happy day after no one even bothers to mention the stitched together pitch?

      Winning, and more importantly playing nice, build up football & doing it consistently well, cures so many ills and complaints.

      It’s like the arthritis in my knees, I never seem to notice it as much if I score or just play really well for my club team.

      Hope we all feel this same sense of giddiness after Honduras!!!!


  25. Posted by jwran on 2013/06/12 at 10:36 AM

    How are people feeling about Besler as a long-term CB?

    Seems like Cameron is the only real threat to break up the Omar/Besler pairing, and Geoff would more comfortably take the Omar role than the Besler role.


    • Posted by Shawn on 2013/06/12 at 10:51 AM

      Besler has proven himself as a solid CB with every game. So I’m feeling very confident with him back there. Omar on the other hand, has had at least 1 major, but basic defensive error in every game he has. I want to keep giving him the chance so that he can learn from his mistakes, but can he correct them? I don’t watch his LA Galaxy games, but does he make these mistakes with them as well? Other than Cameron I don’t see someone really giving Omar competition. People (including me) complain about Goodson being responsible for 1 goal every game. Omar needs to start eliminating these fast or he should be equal on the depth chart with Goodson. Also, does anyone see Gooch and/or Boca coming back into the fold with a good Gold Cup performance and if they were to get minutes with a club?


      • Posted by jwran on 2013/06/12 at 11:19 AM

        Did you see Matt’s tweet the other day – “MB90, Omar80.” I thought that was sad but true. I see a lot of upside for Omar to give us that Gooch-like presence in the center once again and it seems like he’s stepping to that for at least 80 minutes a game. Up that to 90 and I think he’s a formidable CB in Brazil.

        That said, I definitely hope we’ll get to see Gooch take some good reps this Summer. He only got into 9 games in all competitions for Malaga in 2013. They’re banned from european competition now, so I don’t see them adding a lot of really amazing talent. Maybe that will give him a chance to get in the team?

        Good recent article on his future here: http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2013/06/07/oguchi-onyewu-dc-united-would-be-first-choice-club-mls-sideline

        He definitely still sees himself in the picture…
        “You know, you can never count me out. I am a veteran within the program, having played two world cups, and gaining the experience in Europe. I think in that aspect I have an advantage over certain players. Waiting for my opportunity to arise again and hopefully to take it and help the team progress. – Gooch”

        Regardless of whether it ends up being Boca/Gooch or Besler/Omar by WC 2014, I am really really psyched that the two young guys are getting important qualifying reps together at this point in the cycle and making sure that if Boca/Gooch or anybody else is in the team its because they’ve earned it.


  26. Posted by Crow on 2013/06/12 at 4:57 PM

    I’m wondering how GeorgeCross would rate Seattle as compared to Wembley which is arguably the best NATIONAL team venue in the world in my opinion. Great to see comments coming in from Europe on the atmosphere and other outlets.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/06/12 at 7:30 PM

      Obviously, I am biased [and I apologise now if I come across arrogant or snobby] – I am English and I am from London [so probably went more than somebody from The North] – I grew up dreaming of playing at Wembley, scoring the winner for [Palace /] England in a Cup Final, like every other kid. To me, Wembley had this magical aura about it – maybe because not that many games were played there? Or the English media who “brainwash” you by calling it The Home of Football at every opportunity.

      I have had the good fortune to visit many stadiums, and Seattle is probably one of the better atmospheres I have experienced in the US – but it would be so much better if the stadium was a more “European” style – there’s no roof, and one end is completely open, so it doesn’t keep the noise in – I have been to the Red Bulls with much lower attendance, but similar noise levels… Not sure the surface did Seattle any favours either. I prefered Portland to be honest, but they were MLS games not WCQ. I wonder what the Cowboys would be like for a match [on my stadium bucket list]?

      Wembley is also a UEFA Category 4 stadium, and I do not think CONCACAF has an equivalent – so not sure how to compare stadiums that I have not been too. I went to the RWC in 2007 and managed to go to the Stade de France, and Allianz on a recent holiday to Munich, which are both a bit special. Could not tell you if the reputation / branding played a part. But if I had to pick an English/UK club stadium for atmosphere, I’d say St. James’ Park or Celtic Park. Been to SJP a few times, and the banter with the Geordies is top class. Celtic is just Glaswegian noise for 90 minutes.

      Will be going to SKC next month, which will be great, but it does not have the same ring to it, does it?


      • Posted by Crow on 2013/06/12 at 11:24 PM

        SKC’s field is awesome. Reminds me of Craven Cottage with how close you are to the field and it keeps the sound in. Definitely the best small stadium in the USA.

        I wasn’t referring to club games- national team games which have a completely different atmosphere and different fanbase. I’m amazed at the atmosphere in Wembley when England plays WCQ or any other game. I thought of the Stade de France but wasn’t real impressed with games I saw there. Allianz is pretty special for Germany and of course I think Dortmund has the best atmosphere is club soccer

        I’m not saying Seattle was at the level of Wembley but it was incredible and I was honestly wondering what you thought of it if you were watching the game. You couldn’t hear the person next to you for alot of the game. Alot of the ushers said it was never that loud. I think ESPN dumbed down the volume most of the game since there was swearing in some of the chants upon watching it on replay.

        The BOOM BOOM CLAP was spine tingling. I’ve only really been going to games for 5 years and would have never imagined that, or the pogoing, or the call and response United- States or any of it would have been possible in any US stadium just a few years ago. So used to being completely outnumbered at home in the stands and begging for anyone to join any kind of organized support. It is so nice to have Columbus, and even more so Kansas City and now Seattle which are fortresses. I still consider RFK to be one as well.

        It was just a special night almost emotional where you truly felt that soccer was finally arriving in the country.

        Here are some videos from the telecast and then one I took with my phone. I’m going to post some more on YouTube tomorrow. I wish ESPN would have showed the pogo more.



  27. Posted by surfndave on 2013/06/13 at 6:31 AM

    In the Philippines for the past two weeks with absolutely zero access to MNT news since German friendly…Now back in Manila with wifi access and retro WCQ results. Happy flight home for sure most certainly!


  28. Posted by fellainisfro on 2013/06/13 at 1:33 PM

    Did anyone else catch story down below? Apparently the Mariners had the city put a cap in place for the amount of tickets that could be sold apparently over logistical concerns for the soccer game and baseball game. Bogus claim as the announced attendance for the Mariners game was around 10,000 with reported attendance was about half of that. So in fact the 42000 tix sold could have been much higher with a possibility of a sold out stadium. For shame Seattle.



  29. […] more on Panama, check out Panama’s overarching strategy, check out the “About The Opponent” section […]


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