By IVES GALARCEP
CHICAGO– In a Gold Cup Tournament that saw them destroy opponents with multiple-goal barrages, Sunday’s Gold Cup Final proved to be their toughest test of the tournament, and forced them to show off qualities that have been overlooked in this tournament.
Panama did a good job of being disciplined defensively, and forcing the U.S. to work very hard to try and break through. This required patience and quality on the ball to keep possession, especially in the first half, when Panama was still looking dangerous on the counter.
The U.S. team passed the test, and while they didn’t light up the scoreboard, they came together as a team and contained Panama’s attack while controlling play in the middle of the park and cleaning up the few promising sequences the ‘Canaleros’ were able to put together.
The midfield pairing of Kyle Beckerman and Mix Diskerud did an outstanding job of controlling the middle, while U.S. centerbacks Matt Besler and Clarence Goodson stifled Panamanian forwards Blas Perez and Gabriel Torres.
Here is a rundown of how all U.S. players faired in Sunday’s Gold Cup Final victory vs. Panama:
SBI USMNT PLAYERS GRADES vs. Panama
Nick Rimando (6). Had zero saves to make on his least busy match of the Gold Cup, but did once again show excellent distribution skills out of the back.
Michael Parkhurst (6.5).
Kyle Beckerman (7). Had some uncharacteristic turnovers early on, but eventually settled into his usually steady self, winning the battle in the middle and covering an impressive amount of ground. Even contributed to defending in the penalty area on some occasions.
Matt Besler (7). Another top-class outing from the U.S. team’s best centerback. He snuffed out countless Panamanian attacking sequences, and neutralized Blas Perez in a way no team had before in the Gold Cup.
Clarence Goodson (7). Partnered with Besler in shutting down Panama’s forwards and dominating the penalty area. Another quality passing display suddenly makes Goodson look like a good bet to be starting for the U.S. when World Cup qualifying rolls around in September.
DaMarcus Beasley (6.5). Had an important role in trying to contain Panama’s right wing, and he did that well for the most part. Was pretty quiet from an attacking standpoint, but did have one promising cross that Landon Donovan should have done better with.
Joe Corona (5.5). Started the match very well, and was arguably the U.S. team’s best midfielder through the first 30 minutes, but he slowly began to fade and struggled in the second half before being subbed out.
Stuart Holden (NR). Was off to a promising start before suffering a knee injury 19 minutes into the match.
Alejandro Bedoya (7). Turned in his second straight strong performance and suddenly his national team prospects are on the rise. He kept on pumping in service into the penalty area until he finally broke through with his left-footed cross on the game-winning goal.
Eddie Johnson (5). Had a plethora of chances to try and do something with the ball, but never could get through the Panama defense. He was aggressive, and did keep Panama’s defenders busy with his various step-overs and attempts to run at them, but lacked anything truly dangerous, and missed his best chance badly on an attempt directly in front of goal.
Landon Donovan (6.5). Struggled to get involved in the first half as Panama’s defensive wall proved too tough to overcome, but Donovan found the game in the second half and proved to be much more successful at finding gaps to exploit. He didn’t wind up with an assist on Shea’s goal, but his missed attempt to play Bedoya’s pass ultimately forced Panama’s goalkeeper to commit, thus helping set up the goal.
Mix Diskerud (7). Came into the match cold after Holden’s injury and almost immediately settled into the match. He made a conscious effort to contribute defensively and tied for the team lead in defensive recoveries. His passing was very sharp, with four of his five incomplete passes coming in the final third.
Brek Shea (6). Came in an almost immediately made an impact by finishing off Bedoya’s pass for the game winner. Beyond that he was very aggressive in going after Panama’s defense and put in some hopeful passes while also contributing defensively.
Omar Gonzalez (NR). Came on for the last minute (plus stoppage time) and made three important clearances in that short amount of time.
What do you think of these grades? Which player do you feel deserved a higher grade? Who do you think we were too generous with?
Share your thoughts below.