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U.S. player ratings vs. Panama: Johannsson, Davis spark USA into life

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A win is a win, right?

That was the case for the United States on Tuesday, as they rallied late in the game to break Panama’s hearts by overturning a 2-1 deficit heading into stoppage time to win 3-2.

In doing so, as I’m sure you’re probably aware by now, the U.S. knocked Panama out of a playoff and gave Mexico a shot at redemption as they looked down and out. It was a night of high-drama across CONCACAF, and the USA were heavily involved even though they’d sealed their qualification last month.

(MORE: Mexico survives; tears for Panama; Honduras, Costa Rica and United States get results in regional World Cup qualifying)

Anyway, World Cup permutations to one side, Jurgen Klinsmann gave plenty of the U.S’s fringe players a chance to shine in Panama, with varying degree of success. Let’s see how they rated.

Brad Guzan (6) – Didn’t have a whole lot to do, but a few slip ups here and there. Have to think he could do better on Panama’s second goal after only pushing the ball back into danger. Can Guzan oust Howard? On this showing, the jury is still out.

Brad Evans (4) – Really struggled with the pace of the Panamanian attack, and was rightly substituted by Klinsi in the second half. A few forays forward didn’t detract from a difficult evening for the Seattle man.

Clarence Goodson (5) – The San Jose centerback skippered the U.S. when Altidore departed, but he was hardly a rock at the heart of team USA’s defense. A few lapses on the ball and guilty of losing his man on Panama’s second prove behind Besler and Gonzalez, Klinsmann needs more defensive cover.

Michael Orozco (6) – Another set piece goal from the Puebla man, but it was hardly a stellar display. Caught out for the second and looking a little shaky at time, his equalizer in the second half was an opportunistic finish. Much more comfortable in central defense than at full back.

source: Getty ImagesEdgar Castillo (5) – Again, another who was caught out for Panama’s second as he pushed up to high and also gave the ball away for the first goal. However, the Club Tijuana defender worked his but off all night long and was able to get up and down the flank to try and support the attack. Another defensive worry for the U.S. 

(MORE: Watch – Relive CONCACAF drama as USA hand Mexico World Cup lifeline)

Sacha Kljestan (7) –  The Anderlecht man delivered a typically tireless display in the middle, as he kept things ticking over nicely and tried to keep the U.S. playing despite Panama’s constant pressure. Solid display.

Mix Diskerud (6) – Tried ever so hard to stamp his authority on the game, but whether it was the final pass or making that decisive run forward, it just didn’t come off for Mix. The Rosenborg man has to keep improving between now and May to guarantee his spot on the plane.

Kyle Beckerman (5) – Despite another workmanlike display in front of the back four, I think Beckerman is getting a little found out at international level. Playing well in the Gold Cup is one thing, but dominating WC qualifiers on the road is extremely difficult and Real Salt Lake’s captain just gave the ball away too many times. And considering his main job is to protect the ball, that’s an issue.

Alejandro Bedoya (6) – Put in a shift, as always on the wing but found himself isolated for large swathes of the match. He was switched to right back and struggled to adapt, but being thrown in at the deep end like that isn’t easy. Seems as though Klinsmann is still undecided, as am I. Can’t fault his effort.

(MORE: The best night ever in CONCACAF qualifying? See how the drama unfolded on Twitter…)

Graham Zusi (6) –  Two goals in two World Cup qualifiers for Zusi, and the SKC man is looking sharp for the USMNT in front of goal. He rose like a salmon to bury Brad Davis’ cross and break Panama’s hearts in injury time. Zusi tried to get on the ball as much as possible but his defensive work out on the left flank needs work, as he exposed Castillo many times.

Jozy Altidore (6) – Captain for the night, Altidore led the line tirelessly with scraps to feed on for most of the game. Reminiscent of his form for Sunderland, the 23-year-old worked his socks off without much reward.

source: Getty ImagesSUBS

Aron Johannsson (7) – Grabbed his first USMNT goal with a wonderful low strike in stoppage time, seems like the Icelandic-American is peeking at the right time for a World Cup callup.

Brad Davis (7) – Exactly what Klinsmann would’ve wanted from Houston’s stalwart, with David producing a pinpoint cross for Zusi’s late equalizer. Calm, composed and a dead ball specialist, Davis could be vital in the pressure cooker of the World Cup.

Terrence Boyd (6) – The young Rapid Vienna striker did well to set up Johannsson for his first U.S. goal and bullied Panama’s defense late on. Full of running and able to stretch the backline, great option off the bench.

COACH

Jurgen Klinsmann (7) – I was impressed with Klinsmann’s decision to shuffle his pack and give some others a chance to shine. He saw where the deficiencies are, defense, and figured out the likes of Boyd and Johannsson could be valuable off the bench. The German coach is also becoming a dab-hand at making subs, a great skill to have for any manager.

Three takeaways from the Red Bulls CCL draw against the Whitecaps

New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, left, trips over Vancouver Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston inside the Whitecaps box during the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal soccer match, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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With 90 more minutes to play up in Vancouver, this tie is far from over. However, Wednesday night’s clash at Red Bull Arena surely presented intriguing storylines ahead of leg two.

The Vancouver Whitecaps picked up a critical away goal in their 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal meeting.

While their CCL clash was the first competitive action for either side since 2016, both clubs showed glimpses of brilliance in the first of their two encounters in the competition.

Here’s a look back at three important takeaways from the Red Bulls’ draw against the Whitecaps.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Red Bulls still working out kinks up front

Bradley Wright-Phillips has been one of Major League Soccer’s most prolific goalscorers since joining the Red Bulls, but even the star striker struggled to find the ball in dangerous positions on Wednesday. The Red Bulls striker netted the game’s equalizer after 62 minutes, but chances were far and few between on the night for Wright-Phillips.

Despite dominating the possession for long spells of the match (as is the case much of the time), the Red Bulls found difficulty breaking down the Whitecaps when it mattered most.

Jesse Marsch’s side managed just two shots on target throughout the 90 minutes, while Sacha Kljestan’s penalty kick miss voided the host side from leveling up the first leg just after the halftime break.

The Red Bulls have wanted to toy with a two-striker set since early 2016, and Marsch finally got his wish with Argentine DP Gonzalo Veron match fit for the start of the campaign. Veron looked solid at times with his quality first touches and quick pace, but it was the final ball that was often lacking.

Sacha Kljestan and Daniel Royer interlinked well with one another behind the two strikers, and with Mike Grella and Alex Muyl also tabbed as rotational players in the midfield, Marsch will have a solid group to pick from to help his attack develop moving forward.

Manneh is coming into his own

He scored, facilitated and just looked all around dangerous against the Red Bulls. Kekuta Manneh has become one of the most intriguing MLS players over the past 12 months in large part because of his success in the league as well as the opportunity to represent the U.S. Men’s National Team.

While his goal wasn’t the prettiest six minutes before halftime, the Whitecaps attacker was in the right spot, just as he was for much of the night. His three shots on target led all players involved, but it was Manneh’s confidence under pressure that was most impressive.

The Whitecaps didn’t throw too many numbers forward on the night — with the second leg being north of the border — but Manneh and the Whitecaps attack thrived on the counterattack on several occasions.

With a number of players unavailable for Carl Robinson’s side, including Yordy Reyna, Christian Bolanos and Fredy Montero, the visitors played a strong opening leg, particularly after playing the final 20 minutes down a man when Cristian Techera was dismissed for a high tackle on Red Bulls defender Sal Zizzo.

Youngsters show out for both sides

Experience is still the name of the game for both the Red Bulls and Whitecaps, but Wednesday night also provided a glimpse into the future with several stellar performances from the youngsters on the pitch.

Sean Davis was tasked with filling the hole in the central midfield after Dax McCarty was treaded away from the Red Bulls this offseason, and although the youngster has had experience in the past, he certainly didn’t disappoint for Marsch’s group. The 24-year-old looked confident in his distribution and defended well when called upon alongside Felipe.

Meanwhile, Whitecaps attacker Alphonso Davies continues to turn heads for a player that is only 16 years old. Davies only appeared in eight MLS matches last season for the Western Conference side, but looked like a seasoned veteran against the Red Bulls at times with his blazing strides and pinpoint passes.

The young attacker surely has room to grow, particularly in front of net, but hey, he’s 16.

New York Red Bulls 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps: BWP saves a draw

New York Red Bulls' Aaron Long, top, climbs over Vancouver Whitecaps forward Erik Hurtado while competing for the ball during the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal soccer match, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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  • ‘Caps nap road goal
  • Techera sent off in 71′
  • Return leg March 2

Kekuta Manneh and Bradley Wright-Phillips traded goals as the Vancouver Whitecaps and New York Red Bulls drew 1-1 in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.

Cristian Techera sent the ‘Caps down to 10 men in the 71st minute when he connected with a kick between Sal Zizzo’s legs.

A deft touch by Wright-Phillips set up Sacha Kljestan for a fifth minute chance, but two sliding Whitecaps helped pressure the captain’s shot wide of the near post.

Vancouver had a chance two minutes later when Alphonso Davies played Russell Teibert down the right wing, and the Whitecaps wide man curled a shot wide of the far post.

[ MORE: Amazing beach soccer bicycle kick goal ]

The Whitecaps beat Luis Robles before halftime. Kendall Waston flicked a ball toward the net, and Kekuta used his head to turn the ball off Justin Bilyeu and behind Robles. 1-0, 39′.

A foul outside the 18 nearly saw Kljestan level it up with a 45th minute free kick.

Kljestan should’ve tied it up with a PK just after the break. He didn’t, barely chipping his Panenka attempt above shin level. Woof.

Wright-Phillips made it 1-1 in the 62nd minute, when Zizzo’s cross dropped at his feet. A quick reaction had the ball in the back of the net.

Sacha Kljestan stars in “When Panenkas Fail” (video)

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 22:  Sacha Kljestan #16 of New York Red Bulls heads the ball in front of Steve Birnbaum #15 of D.C. United during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 22, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
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When Panenkas don’t go well, players look foolish.

Sacha Kljestan looks foolish.

The New York Red Bulls captain strode to the penalty spot to level the score in Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg against the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps.

[ MORE: Leicester grabs away goal ]

Only he didn’t. Kljestan chipped his attempt barely a foot off the ground, allowing David Ousted to kick the chance away. Bradley Wright-Phillips blazed the rebound over the frame, and it remained 1-0 for the ‘Caps.

WATCH: Liverpool loanee nets hat trick for U.S. U-20 side

STEVENAGE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  Brooks Lennon of Liverpool celebrates his goal during the Premier League 2 match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at The Lamex Stadium on September 19, 2016 in Stevenage, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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If Brooks Lennon brings this sort of scoring prowess to Real Salt Lake, he may just walk away Rookie of the Year.

On loan from Liverpool, Lennon is first on duty with the United States U-20 men’s national team in Costa Rica.

The U.S. opened U-20 World Cup qualifying with a 1-0 loss to Panama, and was under the gun when it allowed an early goal to Haiti late Tuesday evening.

[ MORE: Rooney’s agent in China ]

But Lennon scored a trio of goals and sent in the corner that Luca de la Torre eventually finished as the Yanks won 4-1. The U.S. has St. Kitts and Nevis in the final group match on Friday.

The top two teams from each group of four advance to the next round, in which four teams will qualify for the U-20 World Cup. That tournament is set for May in South Korea.