USA vs. Panama: US Players Who Must Earn World Cup Spot Now
Coming off a dramatic, last-minute win over Jamaica in 2014 CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the United States now turns its attention to Panama, who it will meet on Tuesday night at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
It's not outrageous to say that the win in Kingston was one of the more important victories for the States in the Jurgen Klinsmann era. After all, it was a game that many had expected the United States to win, especially after being up 1-0 for the majority of the match.
With the 2-1 win also came sensational individual performances from members of the U.S. squad. Matt Besler, Jozy Altidore and Brad Evans all had performances they should be proud of in carrying their country to a must-needed win.
However, as the attention turns to Panama, there are still some players whose performances have been doubted as of late. They'll be looked at to step up their game in hopes of making the United States roster for next summer's World Cup in Brazil.
Here are three players that must earn their 2014 World Cup roster spot now for the United States.
The time is now for the Seattle Sounders striker. After being the second-choice striker for Klinsmann in Jamaica, Johnson may have every opportunity to play on Tuesday night. With winger Graham Zusi being ruled out of the match due to yellow card accumulation, Johnson may be looked at to fill the void.
Due to his lack of production as a true No. 9 for the United States, Johnson's role for this team may in fact be as an outside midfielder.
Having played on the outside for Klinsmann before, Johnson may be forced to reprise his role. However, in an interview published on MLS' official website, Johnson told reporters that he is more than willing to play on the wing:
I feel out wide you get to see a lot more of the field. You get the ball in positions where you don't have someone up your back and you're able to play to your strengths. It's something that I've worked hard at the last couple years. I'm just trying to be more consistent given those situations on the field.
In front of his home crowd, Tuesday night may be Johnson's last chance to make a lasting impression on Klinsmann.
Since DaMarcus Beasley has been deployed as the regular left-back for Jurgen Klinsmann, Fabian Johnson has had the opportunity to move up into the left midfield position.
However, Johnson's time in the midfield has not gone the way anyone thought it would.
After being pulled at halftime in his team's friendly against Germany last week, Johnson had yet another disappointing outing against Jamaica.
Johnson failed to get up and down the wing and create quality scoring opportunities for the Americans. With Johnson's pace, many would expect him to be able to take on defenders and serve balls into the box for the likes of Jozy Altidore to pounce on.
However, it just hasn't happened yet.
As Beasley is holding his own at full-back, Johnson may be forced to play in the midfield throughout the rest of the World Cup qualification process.
With the final round of qualifying almost halfway completed, Johnson's time is now to prove he is worth keeping on the roster.
Here is a player who must feel that his time is truly running out. The Stoke City defender, who has been overlooked by Klinsmann for the likes of Besler, Beasley, Evans and Omar Gonzalez, may get one last chance to prove his worth on Tuesday night.
After U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones was forced out of the game against Jamaica due to a head injury, someone will be looked at on Tuesday night to fill into the center of the midfield.
That someone may very well be Cameron.
By installing Cameron into the defensive midfield, Klinsmann could give the green light to fellow midfielder Michael Bradley to join the attack.
However, Cameron's task to fill in for Jones would be a tough one. Jones, who has been in fantastic form recently, provides the glue for the American midfield. He has the vision, skill and tactical awareness that Cameron may just not have.
However, if Cameron is in fact deployed into the midfield against Panama and can in fact hold his own, it can only help his chances of being in Brazil next summer.
While Cameron, Fabian Johnson and Eddie Johnson have all been consistently included in the United States' team over the past few months, none of the three have had particularly memorable performances.
We may see all three given the opportunity to shine on Tuesday night in Seattle. It is an opportunity that none of the three can let slip away.
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