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U.S. U-23s 4, Panama 0: The SBI Breakdown


Photo by Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports


Three games, nine points and a group stage victory later, the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team is one game away from the Olympics.

Despite a somewhat nervy first half, the U.S. cruised past Panama, 4-0, via a second-half flurry to finish group play at a perfect 3-0. Mexico or Honduras await in the semifinals, and the U.S. now sits just one game away from clinching a berth to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Wednesday’s performance proved to be more of the same of what we’ve seen from the Americans. In the attack, the U.S. proved dynamic, as substitutes Jordan Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter once again made the difference. In defense, the U.S. was solid in protecting Ethan Horvath in his tournament debut.

Here are some of SBI’s takeaways from Tuesday’s U.S. U-23 victory over Panama:


Its back may not have been against the wall, per se, but the U.S. did face at least some sort of adversity on Tuesday night.

For the first time all tournament, the U.S. was forced to play without an early lead. A first-minute Jordan Morris tally against Canada eased early nerves, while Cameron Carter-Vickers tallied inside 18 minutes to set up the eventual demolition of Cuba.

On Wednesday, the Americans found themselves in a game, at least for a half. For the first time in the tournament, the U.S. wasn’t far and away the better team, as Panama created a few looks at goal while bending, but not breaking, against the U.S. attack.

Yes, it was an attack without Jerome Kiesewetter and Jordan Morris, each of whom scored a goal in the second half. No, the U.S.’s status in the tournament was never in doubt.

But, for the first time in qualification, the U.S. found themselves in an actual game, something that will only serve as a benefit as it prepares for teams that will be much better than the Cubas and Panamas of the world.


What is left to say about Jerome Kiesewetter and Jordan Morris?

If they weren’t already regarded as the most indispensable U.S. players, they sure are now. When the two entered at the half, the U.S. was mired in a scoreless draw, unable to find a cutting edge. Within 10 minutes, it was 3-0, as the two instantly lifted the U.S. from possible upset to easy victory.

The two have combined about as well as head coach Andi Herzog could have hoped. Morris’ speed and technical ability are a handful, drawing plenty of attention from opposing defenses. Kiesewetter has proven just as dangerous, emerging as the team’s best at creating looks in the final third.

To be fair to them, both Maki Tall and Alonso Hernandez have done well when given the chance. Tall in particular looked dangerous on Tuesday and could have easily earned a penalty kick in the opening half.

But Kiesewetter and Morris should be the first two names on the team sheet, and for good reason. The two of them continue to prove themselves to be the most dynamic American  attacking prospects in the age group.


While Morris and Kiesewetter’s roles up top are all but certain, the position of goalkeeper remains a far cloudier picture.

Ethan Horvath stepped in Tuesday and played well against a Panama team that did force him into a few saves. A Tim-Howard-vs.-Belgium performance it was not, but Horvath did do well enough to preserve a clean sheet, his team’s first of the tournament.

Horvath’s inclusion comes after the goalkeeper missed the first two matches of the tournament to stay with his club Molde. Zack Steffen got the nod in those games and held his own, but allowed a goal in each of his two starts.

There were, however, long stretches where Steffen could have easily taken a nap in goal as the U.S. dominated inferior opposition in the first two matches. The two goals surrendered were less about his play and more about the defense momentarily switching off with a multi-goal lead.

Herzog now faces the choice of which goalkeeper he wants to lead his team into the knockout stages. Horvath appeared to be the obvious starter heading into the tournament and Tueday’s performance did nothing to deter that, but Steffen certainly didn’t look bad in his two run-outs.

Much like the senior team, the U-23s currently have two capable goalkeepers at their disposal. It’s just a matter of which one gets the nod Saturday in the team’s all-important clash with either Mexico or Honduras.


Heading into the 2015 tournament, the U.S. knew that any group stage missteps would be met with heavy scrutiny.

There were none.

The U.S. cruised through the opening three games with a combined score of 13-2, dominating and appearing to get better as the tournament wore on. Following the group stage failures of 2012, the 2015 team left little room for doubt, cruising into the pivotal knockout round with as solid of a group stage as one could have expected.

Were there issues? Sure. Possession still remains a mild concern, one that can be alleviated by rapid-fire goal spurts like Wednesdays. The backline’s late-game lapses in the opening two games were disappointing as well, but somewhat excusable considering the circumstances. At other times, the midfield failed to click on anything that wasn’t route one.

Yet, for Herzog, the group stage went about as well as planned, aside from an injury to Marc Pelosi. Many of the team’s regulars were afforded rest Tuesday, and the stars that were involved were the best players on the field.

No one remembers a group-stage winner, however. Not in this type of tournament. The U.S. will live and die by how well it does in Saturday’s game. Mexico or Honduras will certainly present the U.S. with its toughest challenge to date after what can only be seen as an overmatched unit of group-stage foes.

However, up to this point, it’s mission accomplished. Now, the U-23s prepare for what will be several of the players’  biggest game of their careers.


  1. It’s nice to see a real possibility that the CB positition could become a position of strength/dominance for the US for this next cycle. Now if we can finally find a true replacement for Dempsy and Donovan.

    The U23 group of players for the US looks really promising.

    • I truly believe that Jordan Morris is going to smash the USMNT goal scoring record. He is going to become the next face of U.S. Soccer, I have a gut feeling.

      He is the next Donovan, only with more speed and a much bigger frame.

      • He better turn pro soon. Donovan had the opportunity to get USMNT minutes as a teenager. Morris is already behind the 8-ball and would have to start scoring in bunches.

      • LD was a unique talent in that he had few peers who were so consistent over the years, during a unique period in the games development in this country. I hope we are entering a period of multi talented players on the scene and don’t ever need to put the mantle of carrying US Soccer on any one player again.

      • The USMNT has made huge strides over the last 20 yrs. It wasn’t that long ago that we had 2-3 good players 5 decent players an then filled in the balance with scrubs.
        Now we’ve got 4-5 good players and 8 decent players. By the end of this cycle we should have progressed to the point where we’ve got a very strong squad of 23.

  2. Klinnsman must be rubbing his hands together in massive anticipation of the eventual appearances of Miazga and CCV with the big team. He just can’t wait to split these to CB’s up, trying to play one in the midfield and the other as striker! Can’t you just see it now?

    • CCV is years away from sniffing the senior team and Miazga the same. They are both very young with little professional experience. Great potential there but lets allow them to establish themselves as pros before we build up yet another young player too soon only to throw them under the bus when their flaws are inevitably exposed. These guys won’t be in their prime for at least another 8 years or so….

      • Brooks and Alvarado have potential to be the best CB pairing we have ever had yet they’re hated by a large portion of the fan base because of the inconsistency they’ve shown in their US appearances.
        Brooks is one of the top young CBs in Germany and Alvarado is a squad player on the best team in North America. Both are under 23 years old…. We should be thrilled to have them, and looking forward to seeing how good they can get in the next 5-6 years. Klinsmann has put them in a very tough situation by throwing them into the deep end before they are ready. Again, they’re years and years away from being their best.
        Miazga has done really well so far and will probably be in the January camp, but he really isn’t anywhere close to being a regular on the senior team. He may not even end up starting if they qualify for the Olympics. Brooks and O’Neil could easily be the CB pairing. Hate to break it anyone reading this but its likely this kid becomes only a solid/good professional and nothing more. That’s just the nature of being a young professional.

      • How can you say that about Miazga, predicting his entire trajectory at the age of 20, while simultaneously saying that Alvarado could be one of the best CBs for the US, ever? GTFO. If I had to pick only one to have, I would pick Miazga 10/10 times. He may already be the best CB in MLS. Many MLS higher ups think so. Alvarado, on the other hand, doesn’t start for a club team.

      • This is in no way a prediction of Miazga’s career. Just pointing out the obvious that many if not most promising 20 year olds are only solid 25 year olds 5 years later…

        Miazga is a great prospect. No doubt. Lets not crown the kid before he has proven he is a consistent international player though. We do this every time. Young player looks great and gets called into national team. Everyone can’t wait to replace rusty old veteran with new shiny young kid. Young kid makes inevitable mistakes and has career slump associated with being young and is then thrown under the bus by fan base.
        Its ridiculous for such a huge portion of the fan base to absolutely hate Alvarado because he has had some bad performances when clamoring for another young CB who could just as easily fail in a similar way if thrown into the fire too soon.

      • All the scouts seem to be saying it’s not a matter of IF but WHEN for Miazga. I believe it was Hertzog who said before the tournament that Miazga would be a regular for the senior team in months not years.

        I think the sentiment from the fans about Alvarado is not that he’s necessarily bad or that he doesn’t have potential, it’s that there are other guys on the roster who are better than him right now. JK is putting him in a tough position.

      • You sir are very very wrong. Maybe CCV because of age, but at the rate he’s progressing he could be one of the rare young US stars. Miazga is on the verge of a callup right now though. I would bet he’s in January camp at least for a look.

      • CCV still has another cycle at the youth level. Miazga will probably be sold and go to Europe. If he latches to a decent team and gets minutes he will be with the senior team first. We will probably see a Miazga-Brooks partnership at the senior level before we get to see the Miazga-CCV duo for years to come.

      • The prospects for the USMNT Center Back core are very promising.
        The players best positioned to play right now: Cameron (30), Gonzalez (27), Besler (28), Orozco (29), Ream (28)
        In the Wings but need a bit more experience: Brooks (22), Alvarado (23), Birnbaum (24), O’Neill (22), Miazga (20)
        After 2018 Cycle Options: CCV (17), EPB (18), Donovan (19), Barbir (17)

        There are others on the fringe, but I can’t think of them at this time. Regardless the future looks very bright…

  3. The team actually looks like they enjoy playing together and the individual players seem to understand their roles within the overall strategy. Of course, Saturday will tell the tale (both Mexico and Honduras seem clearly better than any of the group opponents), but the team looks strong, deep, and versatile. Herzog has pulled all the right strings so far. Possession in midfield is probably the main issue to watch for (along with the outside backs potentially), but this counterattack will give any CONCACAF defense fits, goalkeeper should be in good hands no matter who is given the nod, and the central defensive pairing of Miazga and CCV is very stout.


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