By FRANCO PANIZO
U.S. men's national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann scheduled the friendly in Panama to experience what a road game in CONCACAF was like, and he got just what he wanted.
Four days after beating Venezuela, the United States defeated Panama, 1-0, on Wednesday night in a game that felt much like a CONCACAF World Cup qualifier on the road. The Americans won the game at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City courtesy of an early Graham Zusi goal and despite being down a man after centerback Geoff Cameron was questionably sent off in the second half.
Playing in his second match for the U.S. team, Zusi scored the winner in the eighth minute when a cross from Zach Loyd bounced off the leg of Teal Bunbury and into the midfielder's path. Zusi stayed composed in front of goal, slotting it past goalkeeper Luis Mejia.
The hosts did have their opportunities to equalize throughout, but a combination of strong saves from starting goalkeeper Nick Rimando and a failure to finish by Blas Perez saw the Americans win a third consecutive game.
Perez was the one who failed to convert on a pair of clear chances in the latter parts of the second half. The recently-acquired FC Dallas striker headed off the mark in the 77th minute and hooked a shot wide left from six yards out after a collision in the box nine minutes later.
Aside from those opportunities, the Americans had other hiccups defensively in the 4-4-2 formation Klinsmann chose over the 4-2-3-1 he used versus Venezuela.
No mistake was more costly than when a ball played over the top in the 52nd minute sprung Perez free on goal. Cameron raced to deny the Panamanian forward a shot on goal, but he was deemed to have denied Perez a goal-scoring chance when Perez fell to the ground following Cameron's challenge, resuling in his sending off.
The ensuing free kick, which was taken by Marcos Sanchez just outisde the Americans' penalty area, failed to go on frame as it hit off a Panamanian player and out of bounds.
The first half also saw the Panamanians waste good looks, as Rimando denied everything that came his way before being replaced by Sean Johnson at halftime in a substitution that appeared to have been made to give the Chicago Fire goalkeeper experience.
Even with all of its youth and inexperience, the United States killed off the game by maintaining possession in stretches in the second half. Klinsmann made a flurry of defensive-minded substitutions as he looked for his fourth win as U.S. coach, and they paid off as Zusi's first international goal stood as the winner.
What do you think of the United States' 1-0 win over Panama? Who impressed/disappointed you? Which players do you consider the biggest winners from these last two friendlies?
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