June 22, 2011

USMNT vs. Panama Preview

Photo via Flickr user donr. Used with the Creative Commons Non-Commercial License

Background Information:

US national soccer team vs. Panama in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals.

  • The USA comes off an impressive 2-0 victory against a talented Jamaica side that had went 3-0-0 in their Group and did not concede a single goal
  • Panama ended their match with a controversial penalty kick to tie 1-1 vs. El Salvador and force extra time and an eventual p.k. Shootout, in which the Panamanians were successful in, mounting their most successful Gold Cup since their 2005 run to the finals
  • The two sides met in Group Stage of this year's Gold Cup, where Panama pulled off a shock 2-1 upset over the Americans. Tejada scored a penalty kick for Panama while the USMNT's Clearance Goodson scored twice: once for Panama and then one to pull back a goal on the US.
  • Panama and the US have an extensive Gold Cup history, especially in recent times. The two met in the 2005 Gold Cup finals, where the U.S. emerged victorious on penalties. The two rematched each other in both the quarterfinals of the 2007 and 2009 editions of the Gold Cup. The US won each meeting by a 2-1 scoreline

Keys to the Game:

Photo via Flickr user Dan Dickinson. Used with the CC-BY NC 2.0 License.


  • Don't play too casual: It was that style of play that cost the USMNT the chance to have a perfect, and expected, 3-0-0 record in group play.
  • Control the match immediately: What caused the US to stumble early on in the game was their lack of putting the match into their own hands. By continous failed opportunities the US allowed opponets such as Panama early on and Guadeloupe to stay in the match and ignite them with confidence.
  • Score first and score early: This is the USMNT. Our defense is leaky and our prospects lack inexperience. The US is going to need to bag numerous goals early on and in feverish manner.
  • Play on the wings: if you look back on the USA's group match vs. Panama, they allowed the Panamanians to deeply penetrate the ball down the central alley of the pitch. It was deep central field penetration that allowed Panama to earn the opening goal and allowed them to draw a penalty. However, every scoring opportunity that the USA blew against Panama was the result of dishing balls out to the wings and having either Cherundolo or Lichaj make hard runs to recross the ball in the box. Have Jones and Bradley plug up the midfield liekt they have and make sure 'Dolo and Lichaj make those runs.
  • Recovery runs: While its incredibly evident that the USMNT is not a team renowned for speed, they are known for good passing and playing in unison. Which means players will need to cover posistions to players making long runs or players who get ousted by an opponent. It will frustrate their opponents like no other.


  • Speed, speed, speed: It worked during Group Stage and it has played to their advantage in every match thus far, the Panamanians need to capitalize on their speed and ability to create something out of nothing.
  • Shut down Agudelo: Adolfo Machado and Luis Henriquez will need to shut down the young, crafty speedster. Any miscommunication and Agudelo will be off to the races, and the back line can only cross their fingers that Penendo can save whatever shot Agudelo rips on him.
  • Adjust the formation: That's only if needed. The U.S. has experimented with different formations in the tournament, so to combat, the Panamanians will have to reflect it in their formation, frustrating the United States.

A version of this post appeared in the Pursuit of Victory blog.

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Tyler Walter

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