USA vs. Panama: Winners and Losers from International Friendly Game

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2015

USA vs. Panama: Winners and Losers from International Friendly Game

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    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    The United States men's national soccer team ended their five-game winless streak Sunday with a 2-0 victory over Panama at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, near Los Angeles.

    Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey scored a goal each in the first half to hand the Americans a comfortable two-goal advantage heading into the second half. 

    The pace of the game understandably slowed when both sides opted to bring on a slew of young players, but lost in the shuffle was the Yanks' ability to hold on to a clean sheet. 

    Here's a look at the winners and losers from the United States' first victory since September 3. 

Winner: Michael Bradley

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    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    Michael Bradley produced an exquisite piece of skill in the 27th minute, when he scored off a corner kick. 

    Bradley caught the Panama defense off guard when he decided to go for a goal from the left corner flag, and he succeeded as the ball flew into the top right corner of the goal. 

    Just a few minutes before his strike, Bradley attempted to do the same on an American corner. The attempt almost found the back of the net, but Anibal Godoy cleared the ball off the line. 

    After the goal, Bradley continued to be a massive influence moving forward from his defensive midfield position. 

    The most important part of Sunday's victory may have been Bradley's positioning on the pitch, as he looked comfortable in his normal holding role. 

Loser: Blas Perez

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Blas Perez was gifted a chance to pull Panama back into the game in the 39th minute, but he delivered a horrific miss in front of goal instead. 

    The Panamanian forward was handed the opportunity after Matt Besler slipped on the right side of the penalty area. 

    All the FC Dallas player had to do was put the ball past United States 'keeper Nick Rimando, but he sent his shot high into the stands. 

    Perez's 39th-minute chance was one of the few legitimate attacking opportunities created by Panama, and the experienced forward did nothing but waste it. 

Winner: Clint Dempsey

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Clint Dempsey scored his 40th international goal in the 37th minute after he received a terrific assist from Gyasi Zardes. 

    The United States captain was able to connect with the pass from Zardes thanks to a strong run through the Panama defense.

    When he received the ball in the box, Dempsey had to use a bit of skill to maneuver past Panama 'keeper Jaime Penedo and hold off a defender before finding the back of the net.

    The strong performance from the captain was just what the doctor ordered for the American team, as he was one of a few experienced players who stepped up to kill the team's winless streak.  

Loser: Mix Diskerud

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    Luis Hidalgo/Associated Press

    While many of the United States starters turned in impressive performances throughout the match, Mix Diskerud was extremely quiet. 

    Diskerud's influence in attack was silenced due to Bradley's willingness to go forward from the same holding position in the 4-2-3-1 formation. 

    While playing second fiddle to Bradley, Diskerud was unable to make a true impact on either side of the ball before he exited in the 72nd minute. 

    Since United States boss Jurgen Klinsmann has shown plenty of faith in Diskerud since the World Cup; one bad showing in a friendly will not mark the end of the road for the player as a starter. 

    However, Diskerud must be aware of the handful of young players waiting for their turn to prove their worth in the central part of midfield. If he turns in another bad showing or two before the CONCACAF Gold Cup, he may miss out on starting the first game of the tournament. 

Winners: Gyasi Zardes and Miguel Ibarra

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Gyasi Zardes and Miguel Ibarra thrived in their starting roles on the wing for the USMNT Sunday. 

    Ibarra made a good impression early on with his hustle down the left wing, while Zardes came to life as the first half progressed. 

    The highlight of the match for Zardes was his assist on Dempsey's 37th-minute goal, which was a special moment for the LA Galaxy player in front of his hometown crowd. 

    "It shows he has something special," USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann said of Zardes' pass, per Fox Soccer's Kyle McCarthy. 

    While they may not be in the starting lineup for the next match against Denmark, Zardes and Ibarra did impress enough to put themselves on the radar for the Gold Cup. 

    If the progression of the two players continues over the next few months, they both could be thrust into pivotal roles at the Gold Cup. 

Loser: Chris Wondolowski

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    Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

    It's finally time for the USMNT to part ways with forward Chris Wondolowski. 

    During his 45-minute shift in place of Jozy Altidore, the San Jose Earthquakes player did not do anything to further his standing with the team. 

    Just like he has done in the past, the 32-year-old failed to convert on a few clear-cut attacking chances. He also got into a feisty shouting match with Panama's Leonel Parris in the 65th minute after a small foul. 

    With a group of young forwards such as Zardes, Aron Johannsson, Rubio Rubin and Jordan Morris ready to step into the reserve role at the forward position, Wondolowski's time with the USMNT should expire soon. 

    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.


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