Wednesday night, the U.S. Men’s National Team took on Panama in the second of two January friendlies.
Despite the 1-0 win, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side looked sluggish and disorganized for most of the night, and the team was fairly lucky to escape Panama with a win.
The Back Line Looked Disorganized All Night
The center back tandem of Michael Parkhurst and Geoff Cameron—who had looked very solid and composed against Venezuela—was pulled apart all night.
Seemingly unable to recognize simple diagonal runs in behind, and with a midfield that failed to put enough pressure on Panama to prevent good through balls, both center backs found themselves chasing the Panamanians as they raced towards the U.S. goal on multiple occasions.
Luckily for the U.S., the Panamanians proved inept at finishing their chances.
In the second half, Cameron was sent off after taking down Panamanian attacker Blas Perez, who was on a breakaway.
If Brek Shea Can’t Produce, Is He Really the Future?
In his nine matches in charge, Jurgen Klinsmann has played Shea in every match, including starting him seven times. While there have been moments of brilliance from Shea, most notably his superb end line run against Mexico to set up the tying goal, his numbers, in terms of production, are hardly impressive.
Shea’s haul from seven starts and two substitute appearances is a grand total of zero goals and one assist.
Do Any of These Guys Deserve Another Call-Up?
There were few, if any, standout performances against Panama.
The back line was in constant disarray, the midfield struggled to connect passes and generate any sort of consistent attack and the forwards were listless, at best.
The worst of it? The U.S. was playing against a team comprised of many of Panama’s U-23 players.
Klinsmann Will Likely Use This Game as an Excuse to Revert to His Beloved 4-3-3
The U.S.’s goal-scoring haul in a 4-4-2—used in two of Klinsmann’s nine games in charge (including a few minutes of the Venezuela game)—is five goals.
Meanwhile, under Klinsmann’s preferred 4-3-3, used in all other seven games, the U.S. has scored two goals total.
The lack of fluidity and possession exhibited on Wednesday may convince Klinsmann to go back to a 4-3-3, but hopefully he will realize that with a U.S. team at full strength, a version of the 4-4-2 is still the best option.
U.S. Fans Should Keep an Eye on C.J. Sapong
Although he only got limited minutes in both friendlies, C.J. Sapong looked considerably better than fellow Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury in both games.
Coming on in the last 15 minutes, as he had in the Venezuela game, Sapong battled well in the air and, more importantly, held possession up top, allowing the U.S. midfield to get up the field.
While his play was nothing spectacular, its simplicity was something the U.S. had been missing for most of the night.
With far too many declarations of “the next big thing," it is far, far too early to declare anything like that for Sapong. However, following a solid MLS season, it would not be a surprise if his game continues to grow and he makes more appearances for the USMNT in the future.
Can Michael Parkhurst Be Used to Provide the U.S. with Some Depth at Outside Back?
Parkhurst has enjoyed several outstanding seasons in Europe, following a number of years as one of the best defenders in MLS.
On Wednesday night, however, he proved that a 5’10” center back can be a big liability. During the game, several balls went over him that players like Carlos Bocanegra or Oguchi Onyewu would have had for sure.
That being said, with the exception of Steve Cherundolo, the USMNT has had notoriously inconsistent play from its outside backs. Parkhurst’s possession, savvy and experience should be enough to make him a solid backup for an aging Cherundolo or an up-and-coming Timothy Chandler.
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