Already advancing, U.S. is subpar, saved by Bradley in Gold Cup draw with Panama.
By Robert Wagman
(Monday, July 13, 2015) -- The closing CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A match meant little to the United States men, who already had won the group, but it meant everything to Panama, which was hoping to advance to the quarterfinals.
Midfielder Michael Bradley’s goal in the 55th minute allowed the U.S. to draw Panama 1-1 tonightt before 18,467 in hot and humid sold-out Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., with a Saturday night quarterfinal in Baltimore against a yet-to-be-determined group third-place finisher.
The Americans were badly outplayed in the first half and were fortunate to only concede only a goal to Panama striker Blas Perez in the 34th minute.
In the first half, the U.S. played like a team that was far less than highly motivated. It was simply outplayed with its back-line susceptible to glaring errors and a midfield which gave the ball away time after time.
U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann was forced to abandon his hopes of resting certain players as he rushed both forward Clint Dempsey and midfielder DeAndre Yedlin to start the second half. Both helped the Americans to finally settle in.
The U.S. pulled even on a nifty passing play with Alejandro Bedoya intercepting a pass in midfield. He went down the left side and into the penalty area before Bedoya threaded a cross to fellow midfielder Michael Bradley in the center of the box. Bradley slid into the ball and guided it into net.
From that point on, the game turned into an end-to-end affair with both sides having chances but, thanks to some strong goalkeeping from Brad Guzan and his Panama counterpart Jamie Penedo, neither side could break through again.
Klinsmann continued to employ what he is calling a “rotational system,” changing lineups to keep at least some players fresh as the team plays every third day in the summer heat.
Tonight he started the same back-line he had in the tournament opener, but rested in the last match. In front of the defenders, started Michael Bradley for the third straight time, but mixed and matched his midfield with Alfredo Morales and Alejandro Bedoya making their first appearances, same as striker Chris Wondolowski.
U.S. Player Ratings:
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan - 7: He was sharp, especially in the 75th minute, when he laid out to deny Miguel Camargo with a spectacular one-handed reaction save.
Defender Timmy Chandler - 4: He could do little right, pressing forward often with little result, forcing others to frantically cover behind him. His defending was sloppy.
Defender John Brooks - 5: He alternated good defense with dreadful mistakes. First, he was cautioned for pulling down Blas Perez in midfield, which left him suspended for the quarterfinal because of yellow-cards accumulation. Then, he lost Perez on the Panama goal. He redeemed himself partially, taking the ball forward on the U.S. equalizer. In the 60th minute, he stopped a breakaway with a spectacular flying tackle, catching up with Perez who had moved into space vacated by Chandler.
Defender Fabian Johnson - 5: He looked tired, solid enough on defense, but he did not move forward into the attack often.
Defender Ventura Alvarado - 4.5: He had a very poor first half and can be faulted on the Panama goal. He did better over the final 45 minutes with good use of his head to clear balls.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 7.5: He scored the equalizer while keeping up a high work rate for the whole 90 minutes. He was key to the American defense and linked up well on attack.
Midfielder Alfredo Morales - 4: He had a really awful first half and was removed. His passing was poor, his defending was worse.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 4.5: He was another player who looked tired through much of the match. He had a great deal of trouble with Panama’s pace. Too often, he had to chase plays from behind. This was not his usual steady outing.
Midfielder Gyasi Zardes - 5: He, too, had a poor first half, but with Dempsey and Yedlin in the match after intermission, much of the pressure was removed from him and he had a good final 45 minutes.
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya 5.5: His wonderful cross set up the U.S. goal but, at times, he made poor passes and showed questionable judgment at other times.
Forward Chris Wondolowski - 5: As essentially the only U.S. forward in the first half, he received no service whatsoever and consequently had little effect on the match. Then he was pulled.
Forward DeAndre Yedlin (46th minute for Morales) - 5.5: He was able to attack from the right wing and was also able to get back defensively to help blunt Panama’s quick counters.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey (46th minute for Wondolowski) – 6: He turned around the moribund U.S. offense. His pace and aggression caused Panama’s defense all kinds of problems as he opened up the game for the U.S.
Forward Aron Johannsson (71st minute for Bedoya) - 5: He showed versatility by essentially playing as a midfielder with his defense more in evidence than his offense. He made a few attacking runs, but often was not rewarded with the pass that might have set him free.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Michael Bradley
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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