USA vs. Panama preview: USMNT needs a much improved performance to close out January camp


By now, we’re all familiar with the U.S. national team’s recent struggles since a semi-successful 2014 World Cup campaign: Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT has won just one out of six since last summer’s tournament (one in nine including their final three at the World Cup), but much more worrisome than the results are the ongoing trends.

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Going back to the World Cup, 14 of the USMNT’s 17 goals conceded have come after halftime, including 10 in the 75th minute or later. It’s no wonder Klinsmann has recently questioned his players’ fitness levels after weeks of the current training camp, though fitness likely has very little to do with this team’s penchant for dropping late leads.

Instead, it’s more likely down to a failure to play the kind of proactive, dominant soccer against overwhelming opponents that Klinsmann so boldly proclaimed was to come, which results in an inability to keep the ball and relieve pressure on the defense, largely due to a complete lack of continuity in regards to formation and/or selection of players, thanks to an ever-moving target set forth by the man tasked with revolutionizing the U.S. Soccer program.

Which is, of course, to say, “Hold your hand up and take some blame for this, Klinsmann.”

The current crop of players have been in camp, training near every single day for nearly four weeks. To this point, all the player have to show for their time is yet another second-half collapse and defeat, and another shortcoming to add to the laundry list of deficiencies in the eyes of American soccer’s most influential and stringent man.

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Without something tangible to show from Sunday’s game against Panama (4 pm ET, full coverage on PST), Klinsmann risks losing an important part of the locker room, one that has made up the heart of the USMNT for a long time — Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore being the headliners — with his overbearing criticisms and lack of fruitful results over six months on top of another grueling, month-long training camp.

With the Gold Cup just over four months away, now is the time the USMNT must build momentum and a solid base upon which to build ahead of this summer’s CONCACAF competition, a marker for the calendar year, if you will, and a turning point away from one of the worst six-month spans in recent USMNT memory.

In the grand scheme of things, January/February friendly results mean very little, we all know that. But at this particular time and place, nothing could be more welcome than a USMNT shutout en route to a resounding victory over Panama. A win doesn’t solve all problems, but another loss has the potential to do further damage.