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The Morning After: A second look at USA-Panama


Good morning folks. It is the day after the USA-Panama game and while I wouldn’t call the U.S. performance beautiful, I will say that it was effective and there were far more promising signs from Thursday than there were from Tuesday.

What was promising? Well, for starters the defense was strong and tough, halting most of Panama’s handful of attacking buildups. The Michael Orozco-Maurice Edu center back tandem was thoroughly impressive. Nathan Sturgis looked good at left back while Marvell Wynne still left something to be desired at right back.

The attack produced no goals in the run of play but it still created better build-ups and possession than the Cuba game lineup. I thought Stuart Holden and Eddie Gaven were miles better than Charlie Davies and Robbie Findley in wing roles and Dax McCarty was steady for a second straight game (though I will state that he doesn’t cover enough ground to be considered an extremely effective central midfielder).

The biggest disappointment was Sacha Kljestan, who committed far too many turnovers in midfield. He put on a strong final 10 minutes, but it was not one of his better showings.

So what should we expect from the final group game against Honduras? Here’s a possibility:

I see Nowak fielding this lineup on Saturday:







This would leave Adu as the only field player to start in all three matches. I know Davies didn’t exactly show himself well on the wing against Cuba, but the roster just doesn’t have wing options and I think Gaven will wind up getting the call in the semifinals so he rests, or just plays a half, against Honduras.

I am interested to see an Orozco-Ianni pairing, particularly considering Honduras attack is pretty strong up top. Will Orozco look as good with Ianni next to him rather than Edu and can Ianni show that he is a solid option for the semis?

Here is the semifinals lineup I see Peter Nowak using (thanks for reminding me about Jonathan Spector JB):







What could change here? You could see Freeman at right back, you could see Holden replace Kljestan, with Zizzo at right wing. I think Sturgis is the team’s best option at left back so he should get the nod. Same goes for Gaven on the left flank. The players in bold are the ones I see starting in those spots for sure. With Jonathan Spector expected to be available for the semifinal, I have to believe he’ll start in central defense, with Edu sliding into midfield.

I also think Holden has to start in the semi, though that may depend on what happens against Honduras. If Holden has another solid performance then he has to get the nod. Now, if Zizzo lights it up and Holden struggles, Nowak will have a tough decision to make.

I’m sure the semifinal opponent will also dictate what Nowak does. If it is Mexico, with its speedy wingers, then I think you see a Sturgis-Freeman fullback tandem.

What do you think folks? Share your thoughts on Thursday’s match, as well as the possibilities for the Honduras match below.


  1. I have zero confidence that Nowak will play with only one D-mid. It’s unofficially policy that no team over the U-17 ranks can play with one d-mid.

    Sadly, I’m only half joking.

  2. Robbie Rogers is legit, him and Zizzo on the wings with Holden playing in the middle would make a great midfield…

    and just so everyone knows its pronounced ZEEEEEZO….not Sizzo, Or Zisso….. the i’s are like EE’s… ZEEZO…got it?…good.

  3. “Hey, when is the next game on?

    I want to make sure I’m out so I won’t be tempted to watch it. I would really like to have the four hours I spent watching the first two games back.

    Posted by: Aristotle”

    I don’t believe the original Aristotle could have put it any better then this.

  4. Hey, when is the next game on?

    I want to make sure I’m out so I won’t be tempted to watch it. I would really like to have the four hours I spent watching the first two games back.

  5. Hi Ives,

    This game reminded me of how overblown our “talent” at the youth level translates into how good they will be vs./as maturing players.

    Case and point:

    1. See Freddy make beautiful pass with step over move he has had since 14.Then see Freddy fall down for little or no apparent reason and hop up miffed at no call. See Freddy make recently learned European face at referee.

    2. Kljestan “the technical wonder boy”, whatever that means was terrible under speed and pressure from a 3rd tier footballing national under 23 side.

    3. Gavin- see Kljestan. Don’t let foray into the box fool you.

    4. I quote TK from above “I don’t know Ives. I think Dax was clearer poorer. The kid is a 100% youth system product if there ever was one.”

    4.Altidore- and that was not a penalty because the keeper got the ball but it would be called anywhere the same because of the poor level of refereeing in football worldwide today- can’t beat 3rd tier footballing national under 23 side one on one because he is all alone with not support and has a “long” 1st touch.

    5. Lack of aggression, terrible passing under pressure and a host of some of the most horrible easy midfield giveaways I have ever seen from such a collection of “future superstars.”

    ( I do not hold these kids personally responsible for this and sincerely hope they are all healthy and happy guys)

    Holden looked great out there- THAT KID PLAYS FOCUSED AND DETERMINED LIKE THEY ALL SHOULD. As did Edu and Orozco as well.

    Question: where has Orozco been? – Answer-not in Bradenton for the last 4 years thank God!

    In my opinion they were better vs. Cuba at least at their best stretches.

    That was a horrendous effort. Or perhaps I should say that was a horrendous display of talent because one thing I am sure is at least they always play hard and that is one thing with the American teams that is a constant.


    I wish we would just use the money we piss away on “youth development” by buying slots on clubs in the lower leagues in Europe and South America and get the players who show promise at the U20 level experience, coaching and the competitive environments to truly reach their potential and professionalize their games. (OR at the very least, use the development money to hire some quality, proven foriegn trainers,coaches and technical advisers)

    Meanwhile I will keep watching, rooting and praying for a better day because my dream is for the U.S. to become a quality,consistent footballing nation.

  6. ahelms,

    I’ll take that bet on Dunseth and Sullivan, even though SUllivan is th ebest out there form what I have seen. Don’t assume you know who you are talking to.

    Yes, I wave a braod brush with regards to youth soccer in this country. I have seen it all.

    It is didvided into money and politics for th most part. Even coaches who know better, will not teach the way they know they should because it does not benefit them. They need to keep their jobs. They do that by winning trophies and getting their kids into college. Not by teaching soccer, because that does not work at youth level.

    Early maturing big fast kids work best at youth level. Over power and out run. That gets results. Not soccer.

    EJ is the poster boy for this type of player and we have many others. Our coffers are filled with these players. Davies, Findley and Barrett fit the mold perfectly.

    I didn’t want to sound off to harshly on Dax. He is a decent player. He could be so much more.

    His spacing is good on restarts or during calm movements. When it starts to flow quickly he loses his positioning and spacing quickly. Thus the run, run, run until I get it back.

    Go back and look again if you missed this.

    Also, go back and see ho wmany of his bad passes he reagined. Armas heaven. Make the bad pass, win it back, and look like I’m doing great. His passsing is also th eresult of poor teaching/technique. Just becuase the pass reaches a player it doesn’t mean it was good.

    He doesn’t weight passes well, the ones he actually gets to his players, and he puts them in a spot where the player has to work to get moving again. He doesn’t play to the strong foot or in the direction the player is moving, thus increasing the time needed for control, limiting the recieving players time on the ball, giving the D more time and disturbing the movement by slowing it down. Thus making it that much harder to move the ball quickly and break down a bunkering team.

    He turns well, and has guts, Sasha doesn’t but he often pushes the ball way to far ahead with too many touches thus slowing the play down again.

    He constantly looks busy, but what is the end result.

    Recapturing many of his own screw ups, slowing down th eattack with passes that are not in the best spots for the recievers to get on with it, thus slowing play down, and out of control dribbling.

    If you are gonna handle it so much, these things muct be better for the whole offense to succeed versus a bunker.

    He was average at best.

    Why is it so hard to want a player with the desire and feistiness of Dax with the brains of a Sasha. It shouldn’t be hard for us to get that player at this point in US Soccer. A solid player. That’s it. We can’t do this. Even now.

    That is an indictment.

    Every SA/Euro player coach I talk to says the same thing (again, don’t assume). We are naive. IOW’s, a completed pass isn’t always a good pass – see Dax.

    Every time our guys start with a club overseas, relearn and naive come up. Every time. Not an accident.

    We lack brains. Media, fans an dplayers alike.

    Instead of being insulted we should accept it and get the brains from people who have been successfull and playing this game that much longer than us. It’s a fact. Most have. IS that unreasonable.

    Our coaching is considered a joke here. Guess why? It is. Fact. Only arrogance/ego/politics and ignorance will ignore the overwhelming facts that state we are novices brain wise.

    We are. What’s the big deal? Get people who aren’t and learn. Self realization is the first step towards actual improvement.

    That we clearly don’t have here.

  7. P.S…My Prediction….Zizzo will play the whole game vs. Honduras and will light up the entire team.

    I’m calling 2 Assists….

  8. Zizzo is the fastest guy on the field…he should be playing at all times…

    We have all seen what he can do when he actually gets a significant amount of playing time. (check u-20)

    Adu wouldn’t have had any goals had it not been for Zizzo..

    This kid is special and can make things happen..He might not have the most polished footwork, but his speed is uncanny.

  9. Brandon: I took no offense and did not think any was meant. I’m just thinking out loud. i didn’t want you to think I was calling you out or anything like that.

    It was a good quality discussion. I’ll buy the next beer.

  10. I was frustrated by the lack of goals in both the Cuba and Panama match because I thought we would be able to produce at least two in each game, however, it seems as though the extremely physical style of play kept the US team from being to able to break down both teams. I thought the US team controlled the ball pretty well and had the majority of possession. Both Cuba and Panama played the majority of their games very defensively. If the referees in either game called the late challenges more often, then I think the US would have been able to create and finish more chances. As it was they couldn’t get behind the defense because they were often hacked down just after they released the ball; usually there was no call and the referee just gave advantage and let the game go on. The problem was that there never was advantage because we were trying to play a give and go. I think this was the main reason that the much more talented US squad wasn’t able to score. I think a lot of talented squads wouldn’t be able to score under those conditions. What did everyone else think?

    Also it seems like we could add to the attack when teams are playing so defensively, how about a 4-1-2-1-2 in those previous games and going forward against Honduras:








    5 in more attacking role, 5 more in defensive role, but with the right and left backs attacking down the wings? It seems like our defense was over loaded and that there weren’t enough players to receive a through ball or cross in the box.

    What do other people think?

  11. One other thing for the Wynne bashers (Ives included). Wynne’s skill has gotten better — first touch to start with. His passing was spot-on. At least that is what I have noticed.

    People are underrating him, b/c he doesn’t look in control while he dribbles. He doesn’t have that latin flair of poooshing the ball nicely whilst running fast (ball attached to string whilst on foot). It drives people nuts. He outruns the ball sometimes and doesn’t keep the ball near the feet..

    However, he is a SHUT-DOWN back (will NEVER get beat one-on-one). He is the fastest and strongest player on the field. It is nice for a defensive line to know you are playing with a fella like that. He can counter-attack with the best of them — cross leaves something to be desired. However, he gives other teams fits b/c they can’t push up as much without leaving wynne clear for counter. Having a couple of speedsters on your team does wonders for opening up a field and placing doubt in defenders and mids minds. I think people are discounting this psychological affect.

    Wynne does sometimes make defensive lapses, but has gotten better year after year in my opine.


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