The United States defeated Panama 2-0 in their latest FIFA World Cup qualifier from Seattle last night. The victory was expected, but the way they played surprised many.
The passing, timely runs, intelligent defending and the comfort level of the US was all portrayed to near perfection. The entire team was on the same page throughout most of the match. The score says 2-0, but it could have easily been 3-0 or 4-0.
The opening goal was scored by Jozy Altidore off of a slick grounded cross by Fabian Johnson from the left wing that evaded the defenders as well as the keeper. Johnson was set up by Michael Bradley who sprinted freely towards the final third then sent a through-ball down the left. The way the US worked that goal is similar to many teams in Europe as well as South America where players counter as quickly and efficiently as possible. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann must have taught them very well.
The second goal was scored by Eddie Johnson off of a long ball from Geoff Cameron. Cameron is usually a center back or a wing back, but last night he was asked to play as an emergency defensive central midfielder and he certainly answered that call brilliantly.
The assist to Johnson was good, but his stopping the Panamanian attacks was by tackling the Panamanian players in a timely fashion allowed him to make huge stops before a shot on the US goal was allowed. He was simply sensational last night. He isn’t quite as good, but he can slightly be compared to David Luiz of Brazil and Chelsea in the way that he also is a center back who can play center-mid to make stops or assist his attacking mids/strikers.
The passing was so unselfish, quick and successful that the US looked like a new team out there. A long ball from Bradley to Altidore is passed back to Clint Dempsey then through to Michael Beasley who made a swift run from left back to hit the near post. The team almost looked like Barcelona or Real Madrid for those three seconds.
With this type of successful defensive as well as offensive performance, the US is beginning to transition into a more unselfish team who isn’t afraid to run at defenders, defend physically and patiently pass the ball around until an opening is finally there. This will allow them to not only qualify for the World Cup but to do so convincingly.