U.S. beats Panama 1-0 in friendly
PANAMA CITY (AP) -- Graham Zusi scored his first international goal in the eighth minute, and the United States beat Panama 1-0 in an exhibition game Wednesday night at Panama City for its third straight win.
Using mostly backups while the regulars remained with their European clubs and playing nearly the entire second half a man short, the Americans evened their record at 4-4-1 under Jurgen Klinsmann, who replaced Bob Bradley as coach last summer.
Panama, which upset the U.S. in the first round of last year's CONCACAF Gold Cup, had a man advantage after Geoff Cameron received a red card in the 52nd minute for shoving Blas Perez from behind on a breakaway just outside the penalty area.
Perez nearly tied it in the 78th but sent a short downward header wide.
"I think we saw a very close game, a very tight game which we luckily won because Panama didn't finish of the chances that they had," Klinsmann said.
Other than the goal, the Americans rarely threatened - the U.S. didn't have its first corner kick until the fifth minute of stoppage time in the second half, just before the final whistle.
And goalkeeper Nick Rimando made several difficult saves to prevent the hosts from scoring.
During a three-week training camp, Klinsmann got to test the depth of his player pool as the Americans prepare for the start of World Cup qualifying on June 8 against Antigua and Barbuda. The U.S. beat Venezuela 1-0 on Saturday at Glendale, Ariz.
"Our team had a very hard three weeks, and they had tired legs today and you could see that," Klinsmann said. "After the red card, we couldn't pressure enough anymore to create more chances. Overall, I think it really paid off doing this, not only playing a game in the U.S., but coming down here. A lot of the young players learned their lesson today."
Klinsmann figures to have most his top players for the Americans' next game, against Italy at Genoa on Feb. 29.
Zusi, a 25-year-old midfielder with Major League Soccer's Sporting Kansas City, made his national debut last weekend.
His goal came after left back Zach Loyd's cross fell at Teal Bunbury at the top of the 6-yard box and appeared to bounce off him to Zusi, who slammed it in with a right-footed shot from 7 yards.
Rimando, making his first national team appearance in a year, dove midway through the first half to block Luis Renteria's point-blank shot, which bounded in front of the net. Rimando then got up and managed to poke the ball away before the rebound could be knocked in.
Jermaine Jones nearly made it 2-0 in the 30th, but goalkeeper Luis Mejia parried his 30-yard shot, then dived back to save Chris Wondolowski's header at the goal line.
Five minutes later, Rimando athletically got his left leg out to block Perez's close-range shot.
Ricardo Clark earned his first national team start in 19 months after scoring in the seventh minute of stoppage against Venezuela.
Clark, who replaced Jeff Larentowicz in the midfield, had not started for the Americans since June 26, 2010, when he was stripped of the ball leading to Ghana's opening goal in the 2-1 overtime loss that eliminated the U.S. from the World Cup.
Klinsmann switched to a 4-4-2 formation from the 3-5-1 he began with last weekend and made four changes to his starting lineup, also inserting Rimando, Loyd and Wondolowski in place of Bill Hamid, Heath Pearce and Benny Feilhaber. Rimando, Loyd and Wondolowski started for the first time since the 1-1 tie against Chile on Jan. 22, 2011.
Pearce replaced Loyd in the 41st minute and Sean Johnson took over for Rimando at the start of the second half in his first appearance since the Chile match. Defender Jeff Parke made his debut in the 55th minute, coming in for Wondolowski after Cameron's red card.
"Our goal with these two games was very simple," Klinsmann said. "We wanted to introduce the players to those difficult games in different environments, especially away from home outside of their comfort zone. We wanted them to come here and experience this atmosphere and a different way of doing things. I think they did very well with all that."
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