Thursday, January 26, 2012

U.S. Men Defeat Panama 1-0 for 3rd Straight Victory

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The United States got their third win in a row under new coach Jurgen Klinsmann last night defeating Panama on the road by a score of 1-0. Graham Zusi scored his first international goal less than ten minutes into the match and the U.S. survived a second half red card to defender Geoff Cameron and held on for the win. Still, while it would seem that there would be a lot of positives from this match -

*Won on the road
*Scored a goal before the 97th minute
*Successfully defended with 10 men for the better part of a half
*Posted a second consecutive shutout

- the overall level of play was disappointing. The defense was shaky, the U.S. failed to create a lot of good scoring opportunities, and the U.S. lacked the strong possession that they had against Venezuela. I mean just watch the highlights. Most of them are missed opportunities for Panama.

That said, considering the inexperienced roster that Klinsmann was working with, to come away with a pair of victories and expose a number of new players to the international scene is a huge positive. Five different Americans earned their first cap in this two game stretch: A.J. DeLaGarza, Bill Hamid, Jeff Parke, C.J. Sapong and Graham Zusi. And nobody on the roster has appeared in more than 40 international games with only 3 players (Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber and Heath Pearce) appearing in more than 20. With the U.S. core group of players (Donovan, Bocanegra, Dempsey, Cherundolo, Onyewu, etc.) all getting up there in years, it's important to be looking to the future. Overall, I think you have to be happy with the direction that we're headed. Three wins in a row is three wins in a row, something we haven't done since the Gold Cup last summer. Next month's match against Italy will be a real test though and should give us a better feel for how the team is shaping up as we prepare for World Cup Qualifying this summer.

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