Team USA made a statement in its 2014 World Cup qualifying match against Panama on Tuesday with a 2-0 victory in Seattle. USA was aggressive from the start, creating opportunities on the pitch within the first 10 minutes of action.
Fabian Johnson had a shot at the back post in the third minute off a ball from Brad Evans, but he swung the ball over the net.
Five minutes in, Panama won a corner kick, but Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore did well to sweep it out of danger and retain control. In the seventh minute, DaMarcus Beasley floated a nice ball to Dempsey, but Dempsey wasn't able to get a shot on goal. Two minutes later, Beasley had the same result.
After the first 10 minutes, USA continued to hold most of possession, but backed off a bit, swinging it around and looking for prime opportunities to take advantage of. The few times the Panamanians drove down the pitch in the first 20 minutes, they flubbed the ball around, ranging from inaccurate balls to simply tripping on their own accord.
In the 22nd minute, Michael Bradley swung a great ball, headed for the lower-left corner of the net, but Dempsey inadvertently got in the way and it glanced off the 30-year-old. Panama caught a big break there. Four minutes later, Panama found some life, creating an opportunity, but USA defender Matt Besler cut off a well-placed pass that could have been dangerous.
After 30 minutes of action, USA had found some opportunities to score, but ultimately hadn't capitalized, and the side appeared to lose some form for a few minutes.
At the 32nd minute, USA earned a corner kick. But, once again, the Americans didn't do much close to net, with the ball ping-ponging back and forth. Shortly after, Altidore appeared to draw a penalty kick, but the referee questionably called it the other way.
But Altidore left little to the ref's judgment in the 36th minute off a well-placed cross from the left side by Fabian Johnson. Bradley started it off.
Steve Davis of Pro Soccer Talk tweeted:
Michael Bradley's assertive push through the MF (and recognition to do so) made that goal. (F Johnson's pinpoint perfect ball, too) #USMNT— Steve Davis (@SteveDavis90) June 12, 2013
Richard Farley of Pro Soccer Talk added:
Press box shook a bit when Altidore scored.— Richard Farley (@richardfarley) June 12, 2013
USA did well to run out the last few minutes into extra time, with only Panama's Quintero proving to be even remotely dangerous.
Through one half of play, USA was up, 1-0. In the first half, the Americans registered seven shots (one on goal), while Panama only managed one shot outside of the box, which was blasted high by Quintero. They also held the ball for 67 percent of the first half.
Still, coach Jurgen Klinsmann wasn't content with the lead. He said the Americans needed "the second goal to close it down" on ESPN, via The Guardian.
In the 50th minute, the U.S. had a chance when Geoff Cameron touched the ball to Dempsey, but Panama defender Felipe Baloy made a great tackle on Dempsey to save a potential goal. However, Cameron roared back three minutes later, swinging a perfect lob to Seattle Sounders striker Eddie Johnson, which Johnson finished with authority into the lower-left corner of net.
It was nice redemption for Johnson after some clashes with Evans where he left the midfielder on his own for most of the first half.
Timothy Rapp of Bleacher Report tweeted:
I know Eddie Johnson can be really frustrating at times, but he's such a nice offensive weapon for this team when he's on the pitch.— Timothy Rapp (@TRappaRT) June 12, 2013
Panama's Rolando Blackburn and Nelson Barahona subbed in for Godoy and Armando Cooper, respectively, in the 60th minute.
Instantly, the two caused problems, with Barahona connecting with Blackburn near goal, but Blackburn headed the ball over the top.
But the Americans settled things down, continuing to play exciting soccer in the final minutes, complete with crosses.
USA looked fantastic on Tuesday, showing the kind of form that may have surprised the diehard fans throughout the years who have seen the Americans disappoint on the pitch. The 2-0 victory could have easily turned into a complete blowout, if not for some close shots by Dempsey and Beasley.
Make no mistake about it: Klinsmann's men were worthy of the roars emanating from CenturyLink Field on Tuesday.
The attendance at CenturyLink Field in Seattle was 40,847, according to Zac Lee Rigg of Goal.com.
|D||Rodriguez Carlos Ruben||C|
|M||Marcos Anibal Sanchez Mullins||C|
Team USA will play Honduras next at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah. Panama will play Costa Rice at Ricardo Saprissa. USA leads the group with 10 points. Panama is fifth with six points.