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.