The United States began the Gregg Berhalter era in winning fashion, topping Panama 3-0 to end January camp. The squad comprised entirely of domestically-based players as is usually the case in winter camp, and they performed well against a weak opponent.
All the positives taken from Sunday night must be put into perspective, which tonight was the incredibly poor quality of the opponent. Panama really struggled to create anything dangerous, and were poor in possession, losing the ball in bad areas that allowed the United States to create build-up opportunities. Still, a number of players stood out for the hosts, and it’s worth pointing out who performed well.
Zack Steffan – 7
Steffan had almost nothing to do the entire first half, but he was there to provide a big save in the 55th minute after Zimmerman lost his man at the far post.
Nick Lima – 8
Lima was the focal point of the most interesting Berhalter tactical approach, as the right-back tucked into the midfield for a solid portion of the match. Lima popped up everywhere, and created problems for the Panamanians. He wasn’t jumping off the field in the first half, but he was utilized well in the unique role. When Berhalter began chopping and changing after the hour mark, he left Lima on for a reason, and it paid off, winning the ball with a huge tackle with 10 minutes to go and delivering the assist for Zimmerman’s goal. That was the biggest moment of the match, as Panama was breaking with an eye towards an equalizer, and he flipped it to a second goal. Massive moment in a massive performance.
Aaron Long – 6
While Long was less positive on the ball than his central defensive partner Zimmerman, the captain was clean at the back, and while he didn’t have much to do for long stretches, he was never caught out of position. He also made 6 ball recoveries, while Zimmerman had just one.
Walker Zimmerman – 6
In a game where the defenders weren’t under a ton of pressure, the big moments stand out even more. Zimmerman was at fault for the 55th minute Panama chance that was only snuffed out by a big Steffan save. He lost his man, and when a deflection saw the ball come to Edson Samms, Zimmerman was late to recover. Zimmerman was solid in possession, advancing the ball forward more effectively than his center-back partner Long, but Zimmerman’s brief national team career has been blighted by glaring mistakes at the back, and today proved that in the moments under pressure, he still has work to do. His 2nd half goal saved him from a 5 rating, showing once again his imposing presence in the air, but his defensive continuity still needs lots of work.
Daniel Lovitz – 7
The Pennsylvania product was dangerous throughout the first half, and while the U.S. was unable to reprise its wide proficiency as well in the second half, it was enough to open eyes. With Ebobisse fading down the left, Lovitz was a positive on the overlap. He also provided strength in defense, with two successful tackles and six recoveries. A very solid showing for a player who could potentially make noise at a position of need.
Michael Bradley – 7
For those who want the United States to hit the full-on reset button, know this: based on tonight’s game flow, Michael Bradley isn’t going anywhere. Berhalter gave the team clear tactical instruction to flow every build-up through the USMNT veteran, and he was the engine for the hosts in every sense. While he was still somewhat locked into a deep-lying midfield role, and he wasn’t tested on the defensive end, what he showed was promising as the United States will need a leader and a rock as they steam towards the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying.
Corey Baird – 6
While he was less effective than Lovitz on the wing and struggled in one-on-one play, Baird was a good presence along the right and helped the U.S. attack with width in the first half. He’ll be happy with his debut appearance for the national team.
Djordje Mihailovic – 8
Mihailovic scored the opening goal, and of course gets big marks for that, but his game was so much more than the goal. The 21-year-old Chicago Fire academy product popped up all over the field, and created a whopping four chances in the first half. Three of those were from corners, but it was important nonetheless. He was creative and unique, using his body to move the ball in innovative ways to keep the U.S. in possession. He nearly had a second on a powerful was blocked, before coming off on the hour mark for Sebastian Lletget.
Christian Roldan – 5
Christian Roldan was one of the few disappointments on the field for the United States amid a mostly positive first half. While Mihailovic and Baird were impressive in the U.S. build-up, Roldan was mostly invisible. His flubbed his one big chance in the first half, shooting from 28 yards out instead of threading through for Baird who had made a run clean on goal. Roldan seemingly picked things up in the second half and proved influential down the right flank, but was dispossessed badly on what nearly led to a Panama breakaway before Lima saved it on the second U.S. goal.
Jeremy Ebobisse – 5
The Portland Timbers youngster was spry from the opening kickoff, but he faded quickly after a clash of heads required lengthy treatment to tape up an open wound. Overall, he will be happy to have earned his debut, but there was little else to cling to before coming off after 66 minutes.
Gyasi Zardes – 5
Zardes was influential at the start of the match, switching between target man and left winger with Ebobisse, but mainly staying up front. He was strong up front, with good hold-up play and laying off for midfielders to take charging shots, and his wide play was dangerous. Still, he missed with both big opportunities with his head, the first a glaring miss with acres of space on the doorstep. If Zardes is going to play up front, he has to take those chances, and he should have had the U.S. up big in the first half. He failed again on a tough chance from a tight angle midway through the second half on the break, firing at the goalkeeper and then putting the rebound miles over the bar. He then faded completely in the second half.
Gregg Berhalter – 8
Maybe it’s an overreaction based solely on the lack of a clear plan over the past few years, but it was refreshing to see an obvious tactical layout before our eyes, and one that was executed to perfection. Berhalter had everything working for him: a month to prepare, a massive group of domestic players in the middle of an offseason, and an opposition that provided little resistance. Still, you can only play who’s in front of you, and in that sense, Berhalter passed the test with flying colors. This positive performance gives fans hope as to what Berhalter will do with the full player pool at his disposal.
Sean Johnson – 6; Had almost nothing to do.
Sebastian Lletget – 5; whiffed with his big chance in the 77th minute, and struggled to make an impact. Coming on as one of a host of substitutes in a friendly is a
Jonathan Lewis – 6; With a half-hour to show, on for Ebobisse, he was positive at times on the left, and did great work to produce Ramirez’s goal at the death.
Paul Arriola – 5; Only 15 minutes to make an impact, but didn’t have much to do down the right.
Christian Ramirez – 6; Didn’t have much time to make an impact, coming on in the 84th minute, but grabbed a tap-in goal anyways to maximize his stint on the field.
Wil Trapp – N/A; had just 6 minutes on the field, hardly time for a midfielder to show much of anything.