Three thoughts on U.S.-Panama
One goal proved enough for the U.S. in its 1-0 victory over Panama in a friendly
There weren't many brilliant efforts, except for maybe goalkeeper Nick Rimando
Brek Shea, who had been a difference-maker, lacked precision on Wednesday
Three thoughts on the U.S.'s 1-0 victory against Panama on Wednesday:
• In Central America, a win is a win. Nobody will say the U.S. set the world on fire, but the Yanks made Graham Zusi's eighth-minute goal stand up, holding on despite playing with 10 men after Geoff Cameron's ejection early in the second half. A young U.S. team learned some important lessons in a rare CONCACAF road friendly designed to recreate some of the tough conditions the Americans will see during World Cup qualifying. One, officiating can be spotty: Cameron deserved a yellow (not a red) after incidental contact with Blas Pérez. Two, you have to shake off bad calls and persevere, as the U.S. did for the final 38 minutes. And three, hitting the road and playing on just three days rest is never easy, but your body needs to know how to deal with it. Big credit has to go to goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who made a series of acrobatic saves in the first half to preserve the U.S. lead.
• Not many U.S. players forced Jurgen Klinsmann to call them up for the Italy friendly. You could make the case that Rimando's first-half heroics make him a good choice for consideration when the A-squads are called up for USA-Italy on February 29. Jermaine Jones is another player who was active in both friendlies this week. And while the high line played by the U.S. defense was beaten over the top several times, I still think Geoff Cameron deserves a call-up next month despite his red card. Cameron has the ball skills, physical tools and positional sense to continue improving at the international level. Otherwise, most of the players on the field Wednesday would appear to continue being on the fringes whenever the A-squad is involved. Unless Benny Feilhaber was injured, his DNP does not bode very well for him.
• Whither Brek Shea? The big blond Texan had a series of impressive games when Klinsmann first took over, but the left winger is struggling right now. Shea was the only U.S. player on the field Wednesday who has been close to a surefire starter when the A-squad is together, but you wouldn't have been able to tell against Panama. He was lacking the precision, the vision and even some of the pace that we saw on several occasions in MLS and with the national team in 2011. In a game like this one, Shea needed to be a difference-maker. Can he start to get his mojo back?