After that last-gasp win against Jamaica down in Kingston, fans of the US national team will be hoping for a much easier win tonight in Seattle.
Don’t bet on it though folks.
With Graham Zusi and Jermaine Jones missing and Jurgen Klinsmann forced into a reshuffle, Panama are coming fresh from an impressive tie with Mexico last Friday.
But the USMNT have stated their confidence in grabbing all three points in Seattle at 10pm ET on Tuesday, however some cracks have appeared in recent games that the Nats will want to clear up.
1. Track your man and stay switched on at set pieces
The US have struggled to defend set pieces in recent games. Okay, Jermaine Beckford looked a tad offside for Jamaica’s equalizer last week but there was still no pressure on him heading the ball from six yards out. As you can see below, Omar Gonzalez gets muscled off the ball and others defenders don’t react to the danger. The US need to stay strong and brave, keep a high line and stick with their men. Tim Howard is reliable coming off his line, but Panama will look to swing the ball into the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ so the USMNT must be ready to deal with that…. Much better than they have been doing, anyway.
2. Deny Panama time on the ball in the midfield
We all know the pitch in Seattle isn’t going to be the smoothest surface. But it is the same for both teams. However Panama’s players will certainly be used to playing on poor surfaces, so the US must pressure the midfield nice and early to try and force Los Canaleros to make mistakes. Remember Panama need one point to go above Mexico, as they have a game in hand on El Tri, so they won’t be forcing the issue too much. If the US sit back and allow Panama to keep hold of the ball, it will be a long night for Klisnmann’s men. Nelson Barahona will be the key man in the middle for Panama, if Geoff Cameron does replace the concussed Jermaine Jones then he will have to keep Barahona in his back pocket or the US will struggle.
3. Stretch the Los Canaleros defense with balls in behind
Panama’s two central defenders are massive and will make life hard for Jozy Altidore. Captain Felipe Bajoy and Roman Torres have a great partnership in the middle and their towering strength means Clint Dempsey will need to make plenty of runs to help out Altidore. But the hulking duo will snap up anything in front of them, so the US need to get in behind as quickly as they can. If Eddie Johnson gets the nod on the right side of midfield, his pace in behind Panama’s back four could be the difference. The two center backs are good on the ball and in the air, but pace is not their forté. Dempsey and Altidore need to get in behind and stretch the defense to give the USA’s offense a chance of delivering the goods.