Brad Guzan

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Three things from the USMNT’s uninspiring draw

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Brad Guzan played a starring role on Saturday in Nashville, and is likely the reason the United States men’s national team was able to manufacture a draw with Panama.

B team or not, that’s not a good thing. And Guzan made no excuses for his disappointing XI and subs in a post-match interview on Fox Sports.

“We knew it was going to be hot. It’s no excuse. We didn’t move the ball quick enough. At times we were a bit naive. Panama’s a good team and they’re getting better. We knew we had to limit their chances. In the second half the game got away from us a little bit, and we lost our way at times.”

[ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings ]

Naive and lost is not a way to win a Gold Cup, but fortunately the Yanks can get healthy for the knockout rounds with upcoming group stage matches against Martinique and Nicaragua, who play later Saturday.

This isn’t a well-oiled machine

Look: There’s no question the United States men’s national team, even a B Team, should beat Panama at home almost 10 times out of 10.

So don’t look to this as excuse-making when we note that Bruce Arena’s mish-mash of a back line and unfamiliar five-man midfield probably need some more time to gel.

Aside from Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez’s center back partnership — the former of which was very good while the latter just meh — the guys haven’t spent a lot of time together, nor have they played together in that formation.

Kellyn Acosta may be the perfect man to slot alongside Michael Bradley, but he wasn’t a good mix on Saturday with Dax McCarty. We point this out because that duo looked pretty darn good a week ago against Ghana, the sort of thing that can happen when chemistry is growing and one of those players turns 22 in a fortnight. If it doesn’t work, well, there are a lot of us who wouldn’t mind seeing Cristian Roldan get a look.

The midfield didn’t come out of the oven like it looked in Arena’s cookbook, and Dom Dwyer was often left wanting for service and touches on the ball.

Right back worries

Graham Zusi is not going to be Bruce Arena’s first option at right back should the Yanks progress to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. If the coach wants to make a deep run in this tournament, he probably shouldn’t be come the quarterfinals.

A good midfielder with tenacity and leadership, Zusi is not quick enough to close down attackers at right back. With respect to Panama left wing Miguel Camargo, who looks like he has plenty in his tool bag, the U.S. cannot be continually victimized for speed at that position in any game of relative meaning.

Eric Lichaj has to wonder, as a man who’s done about everything for Nottingham Forest, why he can’t get a look at right back over a man who’s been playing the position for a brief period of time.

Guzan makes his case… to stay No. 2

With Zusi and Omar Gonzalez having some problems at the back, the United States needed several big saves from Brad Guzan and the Atlanta United backstop delivered plenty.

Whether or not Guzan was wondering what he has to do to get better from his back line is another story (With respect to Boro’s Calum Chambers and George Friend).

While few will be begging Arena to place Guzan ahead of Tim Howard, it’s good to be reminded that the Illinois ‘keep has star performances in his locker.

USMNT underwhelms in Gold Cup opening draw (video)

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Dom Dwyer recorded his second USMNT cap with his second USMNT goal, as the U.S. began its 2017 Gold Cup with a 1-1- draw with Panama in Nashville on Saturday.

The match was the first opening match of a Gold Cup not won by the Americans.

It’s far too early in the tournament to say the United States saw its depth exposed, but it’s hard to find too many strong performances short of Matt Besler, Brad Guzan, and Kelyn Rowe.

[ MORE: Player ratings3 things ]

Guzan rescued an early bit of danger in the U.S. 18, while Panama’s Jose Calderon parried a long but hard strike from Kelyn Rowe.

Panama’s Luis Ovalle slipped while trying to clear a ball, and the U.S. won a corner when Alejandro Bedoya opted for a hard tight-angled cross instead of cutting the ball back into the heart of the 18.

While Kellyn Acosta was lively in attack, he gave away the ball in the midfield in the 21st minute. That allowed Anibal Godoy to play a dangerous through ball that Omar Gonzalez handled well.

The Yanks produced a solid chance off a really good stretch of possession when Jorge Villafana cued up Rowe for a shot, but the New England player had to settle a bouncing ball and that allowed Calderon to get into position for a stop.

Play went the other way, and Guzan had to stretch to paw away a curling effort from Camargo when Zusi allowed the Panamanian attacker a bit of space and time.

Largely, however, the first half was disjointed, perhaps to be expected given the unit’s lack of game time together.

The U.S. went ahead in the 50th minute when Rowe’s left-footed cross was turned home by Dwyer on the half turn.

Guzan made a terrific save when Torres just won a battle with Zusi at the far post, but Ismael Díaz somehow shot over the bar from inside the six.

Guzan then bailed Zusi out again in the 60th minute, but Camargo put the rebound inside the far post.

The Yanks were out of sorts at the back, and made a sub at the front with Juan Agudelo entering for Joe Corona.

A few minutes later, it was Arena’s not-so-old Galaxy pal Gyasi Zardes into the fray for the injured Rowe. Zardes hadn’t scored for LA in 12 games, and both club and country were hoping for a quick fix via the international pitch.

Player ratings from the USMNT’s draw with Panama

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
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The United States men’s national team looked like a team without its stars and still learning to play together in a 1-1 draw with Panama to kick off their Gold Cup run on Saturday in Nashville.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

Who upped their stock, who middled, and who wasn’t much to watch on Saturday?

Starting XI

Brad Guzan — 8 — An exceptional game from the Atlanta United backstop, who — let’s face it — spared the U.S. the humiliation of an opening loss.

Jorge Villafana — 6 — Remains the side’s top option at left back for now, and the reps help for the WCQ ahead.

Omar Gonzalez — 5 — Not inspiring confidence, but not a garbage fire. Always delivers a highlight play to moves hopes upward, so we’ll withhold our Gold Cup judgement.

Matt Besler — 8 — An exceptional night for the one star man from a back line that struggled mightily.

Graham Zusi — 4 — Regardless of what’s cooking at SKC, he’s a midfielder playing right back. That’s not really on him, and he had some moments later pushed further up the pitch that saved him from an even lower number.

Dax McCarty — 5 — Some good breakups in the first half, but altogether didn’t make the expected impact.

Kellyn Acosta — 5 — Two-straight equalizers where he’s swimming upstream. He’s going to be a very good American player, and that should make this match one of his more forgettable ones.

Kelyn Rowe (Off 69′) — 7 — Was perhaps the only source of danger for the U.S. in the first half, then provided an assist before playing a significant role in Panama’s equalizer.

Alejandro Bedoya (Off 85′) — 6 — Not an awful day for the captain, who came close to earning a penalty in the final 10 minutes.

Joe Corona (Off 63′) — 5 — Some decent moments of creativity, but a touch too slow to be a difference maker on the day.

Dom Dwyer — 7 — Didn’t have a lot to do, but took his chance well to make sure U.S. fans could cheer a home goal.

Subs

Juan Agudelo (On 63′) — 6 — Provided a lift almost immediately, and will get a more prolonged chance to impress somewhere down the line.

Gyasi Zardes (On 69′) — 5 — His lacking confidence from club showed, as both he and fellow sub Morris have two goals in 28 MLS matches this year. Morris has both.

Jordan Morris (On 85′) — N/A — Still not a lot to love with the left foot.

USA 2-1 Ghana: Dwyer, Acosta power USMNT in Gold Cup tune-up

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The U.S. national team’s future is looking quite alright after all, if Saturday’s 2-1 victory, over Ghana, by Bruce Arena’s “B-team” Gold Cup squad is any indication.

Dom Dwyer and Kellyn Acosta got the goals for an experimental side which should see plenty of minutes starting next Saturday when the 2017 CONCACAF tournament kicks off.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The story of the first half was Dwyer. The 26-year-old English-born striker became an American citizen in March and made his USMNT debut on Saturday. After missing a pair of chances inside his first 15 minutes in the Red, White and Blue, Sporting Kansas City’s star striker hit pay dirt in the 19th minute (WATCH HERE).

Joe Corona fired from well outside the penalty area, his shot blocked and sent high into the air by a Ghanaian defender. Dwyer, who was only held onside by a late-arriving defender, lashed at the waist-high ball with his left foot, smashing it past Richard Ofori Antwi for a debut goal.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Ghana’s way back into the game came and went in first-half stoppage time, as Jorge Villafaña got wrong side of his man and tugged at his jersey, gifting the Black Stars a penalty in the process. Brad Guzan bailed out the Santos Laguna left back with a save at his left-hand post to deny Asamoah Gyan with the final kick of the opening 45 minutes.

The story of the second half way the continued emergence of Acosta as arguably the USMNT’s best central midfielder, at the age of 21. Partnering Dax McCarty in the middle of the park, Acosta showed complete control of the game’s tempo and got himself on the scoresheet with a stunning free kick in the 52nd minute.

[ MORE: Germany, Chile set for Confed Cup final on Sunday ]

Ghana pulled a goal back right on the hour mark, as Gyan’s free kick upstaged that of Acosta. Perfectly placed and hit with power, Guzan was never getting to the upper-90 to deny Ghana’s all-time record goalscorer.

The Yanks kick off their Gold Cup campaign next Saturday, in Nashville, against Panama.

Morris, Acosta, Roldan highlight USA 23-man Gold Cup roster

Associated Press
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Bruce Arena has released his 23-man roster for the group stage of the 2017 Gold Cup, and it appears heavily experimental as expected, with 16 players MLS based.

The experience comes in spurts, with Brad Guzan paired with the less experienced Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid among the goalkeepers. Along the back line, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, and Jorge Villafana all make their way from the World Cup qualifiers to the Gold Cup, joined by Chelsea youngster Matt Miazga and Toronto FC’s Justin Morrow.

In midfield, Kellyn Acosta gets additional international time after positive showings in the most recent World Cup qualifiers. Dax McCarty returns to the national team along with Alejandro Bedoya, while bright 22-year-old Seattle Sounders playmaker Cristian Roldan also makes the squad. In addition, New England Revolution winger Kelyn Rowe and left-sided Kenny Saief could be set for national team debuts. Saief has appeared twice for Israel but has yet to be cap-tied by playing in a competitive match for any country and recently had his one-time switch approved.

Jordan Morris leads the way along the front line, along with 24-year-old Juan Agudelo who has not played a competitive minute for the United States since the 2011 Gold Cup. Dom Dwyer also appears, with the 26-year-old striker also hoping for an international debut. Gyasi Zardes shows up as a midfielder, but provides the United States with another versatile attacker who could play up front.

The United States will take on Panama, Martinique, and Nicaragua in the group stage of the Gold Cup, and once that is complete, Bruce Arena will be able to make changes to the roster should the United States advance as expected. At that time, Arena can swap in up to six players who appeared on the initial 40-man roster, including more experienced players like Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, Darlington Nagbe, Jozy Altidore, and Clint Dempsey.

Another name who could see time in the Gold Cup knockout round would be goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, who does not appear on the initial 25-man roster as his one-time switch paperwork has yet to be cleared by FIFA according to a number of reports. If that happens in time, he can play for the United States. The 22-year-old FC Dallas goalkeeper has played for the Mexico youth setup but has not been cap-tied by either country. After making the 40-man roster, Gonzalez confirmed he would play for the United States should he be called up. However, should he complete the one-time switch, Gonzalez wouldn’t need to be cap-tied, as completing the paperwork is enough to leave him no choice but to play for the United States.

Finally, Christian Pulisic does not appear on the 25-man roster as expected, after Bruce Arena admitted the Borussia Dortmund youngster was unlikely to play for the United States in the Gold Cup. Arena admitted getting rest and then meeting up with his club for preseason was more important for the 18-year-old than playing in the summer international tournament.

Players are set to report to training in Nashville today, with a warm-up match against Ghana scheduled for Saturday in Connecticut before Gold Cup play starts on July 8.

ROSTER

GKs: Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid.

DEFs: Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Hedges, Eric Lichaj, Matt Miazga, Justin Morrow, Jorge Villafaña, Graham Zusi.

MFs: Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola, Alejandro Bedoya, Joe Corona, Dax McCarty, Cristian Roldan, Kelyn Rowe, Kenny Saief, Gyasi Zardes.

FWDs: Jordan Morris, Juan Agudelo, Dom Dwyer.