Grades: USMNT Finds Nirvana, Defeats Panama 2-0 in Seattle

The United States Men’s National Team finally played their A-game on Tuesday night, before a Seattle crowd that was clearly under the influence excited to finally host a World Cup Qualifier for the first time since Gerald Ford was president. The result was a 2-0 victory over a Panamanian side who themselves were coming off an impressive scoreless draw with Mexico. The USMNT controlled the pace of the game from the onset and nearly scored three minutes in, only for Fabian Johnson’s attempt to sail high. The American’s had another opportunity in the 22nd minute when Michael Bradley’s chance at goal was inadvertently deflected by Clint Dempsey.

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Seattle’s passionate soccer fanbase helped lift the USMNT to new heights against Panama (Photo Credit: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

In the 35th minute Jozy Altidore beat Panama’s Roman Torres handily in the box before being taken down. Referee Roberto Garcia did not call for a penalty, one of several questionable calls (or no-calls) that were made throughout the night. However, it was all forgotten as one minute later Altidore buried a wonderful Fabian Johnson cross, set up by an awesome Michael Bradley run through the center of the pitch.

The United States was able maintain the lead going into halftime and in an interview with ESPN before the start of the second half, coach Jürgen Klinsmann stressed the importance of getting a second goal. The USMNT boss only had to wait seven minutes before Geoff Cameron’s beautiful over-the-top pass found a streaking Eddie Johnson, who finished cooly to make it 2-0. The Americans continued to have chances throughout the remainder of the match and nearly scored twice more.

Dempsey saw his rebound of an Altidore shot bang off the crossbar, while left back DaMarcus Beasley had a sure goal bounce back off the post. Panama spent the last fifteen minutes of the match lazily playing crosses into the box, clearly fatigued and out of ideas, and the United States was able to preserve an impressive shutout, sending the crowd of 40,847 at Century Link Field home happy.

Playing without Jermaine Jones and Graham Zusi, the United States was able to plug two large holes and left Seattle with three points. Dan Popko and I graded a thoroughly impressive performance by the new hexagonal leaders.

All grades are on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best and 1 being reserved for Ricardo Clark’s 2010 World Cup.

Tim Howard: 6

Had very little to do throughout the match as Panama was unable to find shooting space. Came up big in the end, denying Panama’s Rolando Blackburn in stoppage time.

Brad Evans: 5

What a week! Four days after scoring the goal of his life against Jamaica, the new right back struggled at times to contain Panama’s Alberto Quintero in the first half. Cleaned things up and played a much more confident second half. Still has a lot to learn as he makes the adjustment to right back.

Matt Besler: 8

Was by far the best defender on the pitch last night. Constantly disrupted Panama’s offense with well-timed challenges. Confidence grew as the night wore on. At times, settled for frustrating long balls that rarely work, although his overall passing was sharper last night.

Omar Gonzalez: 6.5

Played just as well as Besler in the central defense for the majority of the match, stifling Panama’s prolific striker Luis Tejada. Seemed hell-bent on preserving the shutout, but was caught out of position on Blackburn’s last minute strike that was stopped by Howard.

DaMarcus Beasley: 6

Was dangerous going forward all night, partly due to Panama focusing their offensive attack on Evans’ side. Was unlucky when his 79th minute strike bounced off the woodwork. Foolish yellow card in the second minute of stoppage time not only negatively effects his rating, but more importantly means he will miss the Honduras WCQ.

geoff-cameron-usmnt-panama
Geoff Cameron stepped in for an injured Jermaine Jones, putting in his best performance in a USMNT shirt (Photo Credit: Joshua Trujillo/SeattlePI.COM)

Geoff Cameron: 8.5

Was a revelation filling in for the concussed Jermaine Jones, doing the same things that has endeared Jones to USMNT fans over the past six months. Shut down the Panama counter attack from the onset and provided depth passing from the midfield. ESP with Johnson set up the Americans’ second goal.

Michael Bradley: 9

Dominant. The one word to describe the Roma midfielder who was our consensus man of the match. Should have scored in the 22nd minute, only to have Clint Dempsey unfortunately play the best defense of his life. All-world run through the middle set up Atidore’s goal and showed an impressive bit of pace. Worked well with Cameron in maintaining possession and pressuring the ball, stifling more than a few Panamanian attacks.

Eddie Johnson: 6.5

Excellent run and control of a Cameron pass led to his 15th International goal in front of his home fans. Did well subbing for Zusi although his passing at times let him down. Provided adequate defensive help for his Sounders teammate Evans.

Clint Dempsey: 5.5

Has not scored in two games, leading to a CIA investigation to find out what exactly is wrong with him. Hit the crossbar after rebounding a parried Altidore blast. Had his usual impressive work rate, although his touch let him down at times. Had an interesting dialogue with referee Garcia throughout the match.

Fabian Johnson: 7.5

Was much more involved on both the offensive and defensive ends of the pitch. Shot has let him down in his past three appearances, but has been exceptional in creating opportunities. Pass that led to Altidore’s goal caught Panama keeper Jaime Peredo in no-man’s land. Defended much better and more willingly than he had in Kingston on Friday night. A job saving performance.

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Jozy Altidore continued his scintillating run of form with another USMNT goal against Panama (Photo Credit: Joshua Trujillo/SeattlePI.COM)

Jozy Altidore: 7.5

Has now scored in three straight games, translating his form at AZ Alkmaar to the national side. Gives the USMNT a legitimate weapon up front and his penchant for finding goals has led to a better work rate. Had a go from the distance in the second half that was dealt with by Penedo. Picked up a phantom yellow card, that replay showed was a poor call.

Brad Davis: N/A

Came on in the 87th minute. Not sure if he touched the ball.

Joe Corona: N/A

Came on in the 87th minute and was a key part of an offensive attack. Was dispossessed by Panama as he was getting ready for a shot attempt at the edge of the eighteen yard box.

Stuart Holden: N/A

Replaced Altidore in the 90th minute. Will have to wait until the Gold Cup to properly rate his performance.

Century Link Field Temporary Grass: 6

Much ado about nothing, some slipping and sliding, but did not effect the game. ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman put it best, “Both teams have to deal with it.”

Seattle Fans: 10

Bravo. Seventh largest crowd in USMNT World Cup qualifying history. Loud from start to finish. Look for Seattle to join Columbus, Kansas City and Washington DC atop the list to host future qualifiers.

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