The last time I watched a USMNT game where I spent the whole 90 minutes full of confidence and gushing with compliments to the team, was probably during the 2009 Confederations Cup against Egypt and Spain. Okay, so Panama is neither of those teams, but I think that's kind of the point. The United States is supposed to play like this against inferior teams. Is Panama bad? Not in CONCACAF, no, but without Blas Perez the Panamanian attack was a non-factor, failing to register a shot on goal until stoppage time.
I spent 90 minutes gushing about Jozy Altidore's work rate and hold up play, again. I was willing to risk a decent amount of cash during the first half that Michael Bradley would score a goal from at least 15 yards out (and if I'd lost said bet I would have absolutely blamed Dempsey). I don't think I yelled at Geoff Cameron once. The individual players on the defense gave me a few brief moments of frustration but as a unit they were once again fantastic. I think the US took a little too long to score the second goal as they were thwarted by Panama, the post and Clint Dempsey's leg before Eddie Johnson sealed the win on his home turf.
Now the USA sits atop The Hex, with 10 points in 5 games and a two point lead on Costa Rica and Mexico (El Tri has played one more game). A win against Honduras next week in Salt Lake would all but assure the USA a ticket to Brazil. But the US is starting to accumulate a ton of yellow cards (CONCACAF needs to change the two yellow card accumulation rule. It needs to be three cards and maybe after the halfway match in the round everyone has a card dropped), DaMarcus Beasley the next to miss a game due to suspension and the next round of games in September at Costa Rica and vs. Mexico means nothing is guaranteed.
Here are the ratings from Tuesday:
GK Tim Howard (6) - One of the problems for Tim right now is that he generally doesn't have a whole lot to do. He was on his toes in stoppage time as Panama finally threatened his goal, learning his lesson from the Jamaica game, coming off his line to preserve the shutout.
LB DaMarcus Beasley (6) - Didn't have a terrible game defensively but did get forward very well. His 60-yard run late in the match should have been rewarded with a goal, but sadly the post rejected that idea. His silly yellow card in the closing moments mean he'll miss the Honduras game.
CB Omar Gonzalez (6) - Overall a very solid game, much better on distribution. Got caught ball watching in stoppage time and was bailed out by Howard. We're very close to a 90-minute break through game for Omar.
CB Matt Belser (7) - Gonzalez has all the hype, but Belser is just consistently putting together good games. Covered well on the flanks and blocked a shot in the first half as well.
RB Brad Evans (5) - Panama generally attacked down Evans' side and Evans responded well, especially in the second half. Overall the pressure Panama did have on the defense kept Evans from getting involved in the attack.
LM Fabian Johnson (5) - Okay, the assist on Jozy's opener was spectacular and he switched with Beasley on the left very well. I know Fabian's had success on the left flank for the USA but I think we'll see him at left back against Honduras.
CM Geoff Cameron (9) - All those compliments I had for Cameron as a sub in Jamaica, double them for his 90 minute performance. Distribution, tackling, interceptions and the perfect ball to EJ. Oh, and his deeper position let...
CM Michael Bradley (9) - ...this guy run rampant in the attack. That was vintage box-to-box Bradley against Panama. His attacking runs with the ball were strong, direct and caused havoc for Panama all night.
RM Eddie Johnson (7) - I still say he's better deployed as a striker, clearly he has no problems finishing, especially against Panama. Still, a very good shift deputizing for Graham Zusi on the right and could see a run out on the left with Beasley suspended.
AM Clint Dempsey (6) - His attack position is still nearly perfect as he opens up so much space. Didn't get to see a lot of the ball, mainly because Bradley had so much space to move forward with. His downward, close range header was so strong, it bounced off the crossbar.
ST Jozy Altidore (8) - Scores another goal. Great hold up play. Solid distribution. Can two weeks erase almost two years of form? You bet it can.
Seattle Fans (10) - Forget the temporary grass surface, that atmosphere was spectacular. The second half chant of "We're going to Brazil" was brilliant (even if we're getting a little ahead of ourselves) and I have a feeling the USMNT will be back very soon.
Jurgen Klinsmann (8) - When you have to make two pretty key changes to your lineup and your team arguably improves, the head coach deserves a ton of credit. I would have liked to see the subs earlier to avoid the yellow card accumulation problems that Beasley has but otherwise, a great day for Klinsmann.
SUBS - Holden, Corona, Davis (N/A) - Three late cameos off the bench, no time to make any impact on the game.