USA 2, Panama 0 | International Friendly Match Recap
CARSON, Calif. – Jurgen Klinsmann returned to a four-man backline, kept Michael Bradley in a holding role, and gave hometown boy Gyasi Zardes his first international start as the US national team completed its annual “January” camp with a 2-0 triumph over Panama.
Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey netted first-half goals and the Yanks posted their first shutout since their last victory, a 1-0 decision over the Czech Republic in early September, as they closed a five-game winless skid Sunday afternoon in front of 20,271 at StubHub Center.
Right back DeAndre Yedlin limped off with an undisclosed injury in the second half – he grabbed his left knee when he went down – and striker Jozy Altidore exited at halftime, a precautionary move, after experiencing hamstring tightness.
Miguel Ibarra, another LA-area product, also got his first international start, and D.C. United's Perry Kitchen and FC Dallas' Matt Hedges won their first caps off the bench as the U.S. prevailed for just the second time in 10 games since the victory over Ghana in its World Cup.
Bradley, paired with Mix Diskerud above the backline, ran the show in a 4-2-3-1 alignment, creating much of the US attack while playing deeper in the formation for the second successive encounter – that's all about squad makeup, Klinsmann said ahead of the game – after he was utilized in more of an attacking role over the previous nine months.
Klinsmann went with four at the back after using a three-man grouping, with mixed results, in the loss 11 days earlier in Chile. He paired Jermaine Jones, making just his fourth appearance on the US backline, with Matt Besler in the middle, and the converted midfielder appeared much more comfortable than in previous outings.
- CHALKBOARD: How did the four-man backline fare vs. Panama?
Not that there weren't troubles. The defense was left scrambling too often in the first half as Panama used its quickness up top to swarm the ball, and Los Canaleros came close to scoring on a few occasions.
Their best chance was in the 39th minute, when Besler slipped as he collected a pass from goalkeeper Nick Rimando at the top corner of the U.S. box. FC Dallas' Blas Perez raced to the loose ball, then fired wildly wide to the right with an open shot.
Zardes, who made his U.S. debut in the game in Chile, looked solid on the right flank, combining with teammates, finding good attacking spaces, and roaming deep to defend when needed. He created Dempsey's goal.
Ibarra, the reigning NASL most valuable player, struggled early on the left side but was better as the match wore on, and when he cut inside, leaving the left flank for left back Brek Shea.
Bradley gave the US the lead in the 27th minute, curling a corner kick from the left over LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and into the upper-right corner as Altidore crashed the back post. He had nearly scored from the same spot five minutes earlier, but Penedo parried his bending ball to the near post.
Dempsey doubled the advantage in the 37th, thanks to Zardes. The Galaxy attacker, who grew up in nearby Hawthorne, pulled down a loose ball at midfield, made a quick burst inside to find space, raced forward with the ball, then split two defenders with a pass into the box for the US captain.
Dempsey beat an onrushing Penedo on the dribble, then tucked the ball home under pressure from defender Harold Cummings for his 40th international goal.
The U.S. had other chances, most involving Bradley, who set up an early Ibarra chance with a ball behind Panama's backline, then nearly found Dempsey with a cross toward the right post in the eighth minute. Bradley fired hard at Penedo from Zardes' feed in the 43rd.
Dempsey nearly scored his second just after the break, but he couldn't get his footing down when a low cross after a corner kick found him in the goalmouth, and Jones put an open header at Penedo from a Bradley free kick in the 60th minute.