CARSON, Calif. — The United States surely anchored its sights on breaking a nine-game winless streak when battling Panama this afternoon, after the previous match against Chile unfolded poorly.
On Jan. 28, the Stars and Stripes watched their defense buckle and offense stagnate, as La Roja buried two unanswered second-half goals in a 3-2 victory.
Today, Team USA strove for an end to its setbacks, demonstrating the resolute brand of attacking soccer and tight defense that made this game very winnable.
Even though collisions and jostling for position displayed a noticeable struggle for the U.S. in the second half, the main goals–snagging a victory and limiting their opponent to shutout–were fulfilled.
In the 27th minute, possibly attempting to feed Jozy Altidore at the far post, midfielder Michael Bradley sent a well-arched ball into the upper netting to tally a magnificent ‘Olimpico’ score. He hadn’t scored for manager Jurgen Klinsmann since April 2014, and was a source of ridicule during the World Cup last summer.
“Its been a little while,” Bradley said when asked about the last time he scored on the international stage.
“I do whatever the game asks. There’s been so much unnecessary focus and attention put on all this stuff, and at the end of the day, you need guys on the field who are willing to pour their heart and soul into it. That’s what I’m about.”
No more than 10 minutes passed before Clint Dempsey, for his 40th international goal, finished at close-range, a sequence set up by pinpoint through ball from LA Galaxy homegrown player Gyasi Zardes.
“When I got the ball I countered, I saw open space..and I saw Clint making an amazing run towards goal, and I had to feed him. Sure enough, he put it away,” said Zardes, who secured Man of the Match honors.
This victory sends American MLS players, from veterans Dempsey and Bradley to youngster Will Trapp, into their club season on a decent note.
The true significance of January camp and this friendly match is the strengthening of fitness levels for opening day, Klinsmann believes.
“We want just give them a head start into 2015. We want them to be fit and ready for a successful year,” he said.
Both Panama and the United States pushed hard in the final 45 minutes, but exchanges of penalties kept many offensive endeavors quiet.
Regardless, the U.S. had already determined the outcome, and in the face of what many called a questionable makeshift back line for the USMNT, one that held routine midfielders Brek Shea and Jermaine Jones, Klinsmann was delighted that the result panned out in a reasonable manner.
“I’m obviously pleased to see the team finish off the camp in great style,” the former Bayern Munich striker said.
“We’re trying to make the best out of the players that are coming in…But we you put the pieces together for that specific game, you just try to manage it the best way with the material you have, and it worked fine. There was plenty of experience on the field.”
Klinsmann also stressed the importance of observing his squad in fluctuating roles prior to the start of their next major tournament, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, within the next five months.
The Americans needed to recapture a shade of consistency, although accomplishing this task did not require an ideal outing.
“We talked all week about coming back in front of our home fans, and laying down a marker in terms of a good performance. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good step,” Bradley concluded.