The USMNT is advancing into the 2015 Gold Cup Quarterfinals, winning the group stage with 7 points and a record of 2-0-1 as they drew Panama by a score of 1-1 Monday night at our very own Sporting Park in KCK.
The U.S. in this match went once again with a 4-4-2 formation and gave some bench players (Wondolowski, Zardes, and maybe Alvarado and Beckerman) a chance to prove themselves, while giving most of the main players (Dempsey, Altidore, Yedlin, Gonzalez, Diskerud, and Johannsson) a rest for at least most of the match (Gonzalez, Altidore, and Diskerud for all of it) that really didn’t mean anything for them because they had already clinched Group A with a win vs Haiti.
The environment at Sporting Park was incredible, with the crowd chanting all match long, on the edge of their seats singing “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-AAAAAA” and chanting “I Believe That We Will Win” much longer and louder than Foxborough, MA and Frisco, TX, showing why Kansas City is considered “Soccer City, USA.” It didn’t matter how hot and humid it was, the American Outlaws of KC and the surrounding major cities proved why the midwestern U.S. has the best soccer fans in all of the CONCACAF region.
Early, the U.S. attacked early unlike the previous two games vs Honduras and Haiti. Michael Bradley was pressuring incredibly, playing fantastic defense in the attacking third, trying to force a turnover and immediate chance at a goal. At the 10th minute, Panama had a free kick on the right side of the box and it was put in beautifully by Luis Tejada, their No. 2 striker. But he was offside and it was called a no goal. Replay clearly showed it was the right call by about one yard. For the next couple Panamanian possessions, they were unsuccessful in their attempts to attack Guzan and score and Guzan got the ball with ease on both possessions. At the 16th minute, Wondolowski sent a TERRIFIC no look pass to Alejandro Bedoya and Bedoya’s shot was saved by Jaime Penedo. Later that minute, Panama sent a deep ball towards Blas Perez and John Brooks almost wrapped him up and got his second yellow card of the tournament, which suspends him for the Quarterfinal match. I think that will lead to SKC’s Matt Besler being put in the team come Gold Cup changes just before the Knockout Round. Armando Cooper shot the free kick that was very nice and almost went over Guzan due to Guzan being too far forward. Guzan immediately threw it to Fabian Johnson who sent a terrific ball to Gyasi Zardes who almost got between the Panama defense to attack Penedo, the ball eventually found Michael Bradley who took a very dangerous long shot that was just barely saved by Penedo. In the 19th minute, Timothy Chandler made a terrific steal and then gave a nice ball to Zardes, who’s cross was deflected and went for a corner. Bradley’s corner went and hit the outside netting. Later on, Panama attacked and may have cheated by intentionally jumping into Guzan’s free kick and Panama nearly scored that possession. A terrible ball by Beckerman led to Panama getting a couple chances, but nothing came from it. A dangerous cross from Darwin Pinzon was nearly headed in Guzan’s direction, but Perez jumped on top of Brooks and fell on him. Panama had another possibly dangerous possession, but beautiful defense by Alvarado caused him to go back and pass it around again. A handball by Alvarado to the left of the box in the 31st minute led to a close, dangerous free kick, but the U.S. defended it well. Then the U.S. and Panama kept turning it over sloppily. In the 34th minute, a beautiful ball by Perez to Tejada led to a dangerous chance, and Tejada made Alvarado look pathetic, running by him with ease, and sent a ground cross by Brooks and Guzan for a tap in for Blas Perez, his 11th career Gold Cup goal, which is third all-time behind U.S. legend Landon Donovan (18) and Mexico’s Luis Roberto Alves (12).
Immediately, the U.S. attacked Panama as the Bedoya sent it to Zardes in the middle of the edge of the box, who tried to back heel it to Wondolowski but it went passed him. Some more good passing by Panama eventually led to nothing. Perez was playing fantastic on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, getting a goal, a good chance, and multiple steals in the first 40 minutes. A beautiful ball by Wondolowski led to a great run by Bedoya, who was fouled around the box and likely should’ve been a penalty or very close to a free kick, but the referee called a terrible “play on, no foul.” Jurgen Klinsmann, Bradley, and many more were yelling, demanding an explanation, which was never given. Timothy Chandler once again with a terrible pass that almost led to a goal scoring opportunity, but instead, he fouled him and received a questionable yellow card. Soon, a dangerous free kick came after a shoulder to the head from Godoy, who got his second yellow of the tournament, to Zardes. Godoy is suspended for the quarterfinal. The free kick was beautiful by Bradley and Brooks had a chance for a header goal, but Panama did not concede. A turnover from Panama and goal scoring opportunity for the U.S. was laughably called back after a non-existent foul call against Wondolowski. That was the end of the half, Panama 1, USA 0 in a controversial first half full of a non-existent Gyasi Zardes, poor Michael Bradley, human Brad Guzan, and the first good moment of Ventura Alvarado’s Gold Cup.
Before the second half began, Tottenham’s DeAndre Yedlin came in for Franklin Morales and Clint Dempsey came in for Wondolowski, who actually had a nice first half unlike Zardes. Bedoya was now at left midfielder so Yedlin could be right midfielder. Some sloppy passing by Panama started the half, and in the 47th minute, a sloppy turnover led to Panama having a good chance, but no foul as the U.S. was tackled. Soon after, Ventura Alvarado received a yellow after pushing Perez in the collarbone area after Alvarado headed away a ball. It was a clear dive by Perez, but just moronic decision by Alvarado. The Yanks had plenty of decent chances for the next few minutes and nothing came from it. In the 52nd minute, Alejandro Bedoya passed it to a way offside Zardes who shot it off the crossbar, but was called offside anyways. The next minute, Tejada was one-on-one with John Brooks who defended it very well, although it gave Panama their third corner of the match, which was headed wide. Fabian Johnson passed a ball to Bedoya to the left of the goal who tried to cut it back to Zardes, but it was stopped short of him by a Panamanian player, as Dempsey then took the ball but could not get a shot off and it was cleared. Brooks then sent off a brilliant ball to Bedoya, who tried to give it to Zardes which was blocked, but it went right to Dempsey who made a FANTASTIC ball to Bedoya as he was falling down, and Bedoya crossed it to Michael Bradley, who scored the tap in equalizer! It was 1-1 in the 55th minute!
A minute later, Yedlin made a steal and nearly a goal scoring opportune run, but was fouled before he could run. Yedlin got it back a bit later and made a FANTASTIC run and was destroyed in the penalty box in what was an obvious penalty, but the referee said no foul. Once again in the 60th, what would have been a close free kick was called no foul by the referee. Panama immediately went forward with the counter attack and Perez was out in space with no one in front of him, but then, John Brooks came out of no where with a beautiful sliding tackle just inside the box. Chandler beautifully headed away a good ball towards the box from Panama. In 63rd minute, a terrible ball by Bradley was stolen by Quintero which was then given to Perez who had a good chance, but was saved easily by Brad Guzan. Immediately, the U.S. went back on the attack, with brilliant passes by Bedoya and Dempsey right to Bradley, who was in space. He passed it to Zardes who had to go back to get the ball, but had Bradley wide open full sprint, but instead of passing to Bradley, he crossed it across the field to Yedlin, which Yedlin barely kept in and then Panama cleared it. A beautiful run and ball from Quintero to Tejada and the dangerous cross from Davis was headed away by Brooks. The crowd continued its roar of brilliance after 65 minutes, absolutely fantastic. A beautiful slide tackle by Bedoya in the 69th minute temporarily stopped a dangerous possession, but it continued. It was clear Bedoya was extremely fatigued or that he was injured or both and he was subbed out for Aron Johannsson. The impressive Luis Tejada was also subbed out at this time. A free kick from Brooks was headed by Zardes which then Johannsson did a backheel to Dempsey who sent a great ball towards Zardes and Zardes was possibly fouled in the box, in what may have been the third penalty the U.S. got robbed of in this match. Miguel Camargo then had a good shot that was saved by Guzan. Beckerman then made a brilliant chip to Zardes, which was then kicked away for a Yank corner. The U.S. were unable to capitalize and Panama immediately went on the counter, and had a golden chance on a great ball which was shot on goal and sent away by Guzan for a corner. Panama was unable to capitalize on their corner as well. Beckerman then had a brilliant shot from 40 yards that was just wide. Brooks once again headed away a dangerous Panamanian cross. Johannsson sent a brilliant chip to Fabian Johnson which he passed to Dempsey, but it was clearly before Dempsey could shoot. The U.S. once again, as the American Outlaws were chanting “I Believe That We Will Win,” had a great chance as Dempsey got a great ball from Yedlin and sent an amazing ball to Johannsson, who gave a no-look backheel right back to Dempsey and Panama slidetackled Dempsey and did not concede. The free kick was taken by Bradley and was nearly headed in by Brooks. Beckerman then went onto the sidelines as his head was bleeding and the U.S. was down to 10 men temporarily, and Panama saw this as a golden opportunity to attack. The U.S. sent it away and Beckerman got a new jersey. Panama got it back and were attacking, but Yedlin took it away out of nowhere with his insane pace. Quintero was then subbed out. Panama was called for handball and play was stopped when the U.S. should’ve likely gotten the advantage instead. Free kick was taken by Clint Dempsey and it was deflected by the wall and Aron Johannsson was called for a phantom foul in the box. Dempsey later headed a goal kick from Guzan and a foul was called on Aron Johannsson, this time a good call. Panama attacked to the left of the goal, but out of nowhere, Alvarado slidetackled him. It reached 90 minutes and there was three added minutes. The U.S. got a steal thanks to Yedlin, which went to Dempsey, who passed up to Bradley, which was then taken back and passed back to Yedlin. Yedlin gave it to Zardes who crossed it in and it went past everyone for a Panama goal kick. Panama tried to attack by brilliant defense by Fabian Johnson gave it back to the U.S. Dempsey got it, passed it to Johannsson, passed back to Dempsey, found its way to Yedlin, and Yedlin and Dempsey failed to get a chance for a goal. Cooper crossed it towards the front two Panamanian players, headed away by Alvarado, but it fell right to Perez. Perez shot from 30 yards and Guzan saved the hard shot right at him. One minute remaining and Guzan’s kick went right back to Panama half way down the pitch, but it was stolen by Zardes, who gave it right back to panama. Cooper took a hard shot from 20 yards that was saved beautifully by Guzan. That was his seventh and final save. The U.S. ran out the rest of the clock and that was the match.
Full time, U.S. 1 Panama 1.
Post Game Notes:
Ventura Alvarado has proven he is capable at time, but his negatives far outweigh his positives.
John Brooks being suspended for the Quarterfinal hurts really bad and I do not see, nor want to see Gonzalez and Alvarado starting at CB for that match, expect Besler to be called up for the Knockout Round.
Michael Bradley really played like the captain in the 2nd half, very well done by him.
DeAndre Yedlin and Clint Dempsey played great off the bench tonight.
Brad Guzan deserves the Golden Glove for this tournament at this point.
The United States Men’s National Team plays the Group B/C third place team in Baltimore for their quarterfinal match, which at this moment, that team would be Group B current runner-up El Salvador. That match will be at 4pm on FOX.