Three things we learned from USMNT – Panama

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USMNT – Panama: Braces from Nicholas Gioacchini and Sebastian Soto made them two of three United States men’s national team players to score their first senior international goals in a 6-2 win over Panama in Austria on Monday.

Weston McKennie ran the show in a fairly dominant first half for Gregg Berhalter’s Yanks that saw Gioacchini score twice after Giovanni Reyna delivered a gorgeous free kick goal.

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The second half was much kinder to Los Canaleros including a Gioacchini missed penalty, but Sebastian Soto thudded a header home off fellow debutant Richy Ledezma’s cross in the 83rd minute, and he’d do the same at the back post in stoppage time.

Sebastian Lletget finished a Reggie Cannon cross in between Soto’s goals. Soto and Ledezma were making their USMNT debuts.

[ ICYMI: Wales-USMNT recap, Player ratingsThree things ]

Jose Fajardo scored two goals as the Yanks’ experienced center backs struggled on both Panama goals.

The USMNT was coming off a 0-0 draw in Wales, while Panama lost 1-0 to a Takumi Minamino penalty when it faced Japan in Austria last week.

Here’s everything you need to know from USMNT – Panama, as a young team did plenty of young things in an uneven but decisive-enough win.


Three Four things we learned from USMNT – Panama

1. Kids give big response(s) to mistakes: Whether naive and ignorant or angry and reactive, the Yanks did not buckle to conceding a goal on Panama’s first and really only threat of the early stages. An eighth-minute cross into the heart of the box (more on that in a moment) was nodded past Zack Steffen to give Los Canaleros a lead, but the Yanks reacted quickly and strongly with an equalizer within a dozen minutes and two more goals to make it 3-1 after 26 minutes. The second half started poorly and Panama pulled within one before a two different young players combined to restore a two-goal cushion when Ledezma found the heads of Soto late.

2. Center back depth remains a question mark: John Brooks was rested for this second match in a handful of days, as Matt Miazga and Tim Ream provided an experienced center back pairing that promptly showed a lack of positioning as Panama took its early lead. The danger came from a cross from the right thanks to a lack of pressure from the midfield. Perhaps young Yunus Musah was to blame, but the cross sailed above Miazga and Ream was not tight to the runner as Panama’s Fajardo headed past Steffen. Miazga then stepped out of position on a second-half giveaway and Panama found the space he vacated to make it 3-2.

As the USMNT plans not just to advance to the World Cup but challenge for one, they’ll need to find the steadiest partner for Brooks and let’s not forget that the dominant, ball-playing Wolfsburg center back had his fair share of injuries prior to 2019. Will Miazga refine his game under Vincent Kompany at Anderlecht? Can Chris Richards find meaningful minutes at Bayern Munich or develop at Bayern II? And is Walker Zimmerman simply the easy answer next to Brooks as two big, physical center backs? It would’ve been nice to see Richards for more than the final 10 minutes here, but beggars can sometimes be choosers.

3. So… USMNT fans can have all this attacking, and more? With the caveat that this Panama team is not a force, Gregg Berhalter will be happy to imagine his team controlling play against Los Canaleros in a pair of World Cup qualifiers with Christian Pulisic, John Brooks, Josh Sargent, Jordan Morris, Walker Zimmerman, and Weah (a late sub on Monday) all players who can imagine themselves bettering the performances from Monday plus continued growth from the very young players who’ve made their case for roles in the summer and beyond.

4. Center forwards are better at center forward things: Gregg Berhalter wanted experience in his young side when he plugged midfielder Sebastian Lletget as a false nine in the United States attack for a scoreless draw with Wales, and it’s hardly the player’s fault that he looked like a guy who doesn’t play much center forward.

Enter Caen 20-year-old Nicholas Gioacchini, who was lively and stuck his nose in all the right places for his first and second USMNT goals. The French-American poacher put home an Ulysses Llanez rebound before heading a back post ball home to cap a run of three USMNT goals in under eight minutes. He missed a penalty-kick bid for a hat trick but that’s life.


USMNT – Panama recap

Slick interplay between left back Sergino Dest and Nicholas Gioacchini drew a second-minute free kick for Giovanni Reyna, but the Borussia Dortmund teen’s effort was poor.

Panama, now coached by ex-Leeds United boss Thomas Christiansen, was defending plenty in the early stages. Gioacchini just missed the near post off a Reggie Cannon cross from the right in the seventh minute.

Los Canaleros scored with their first foray into the U.S. third, Alejandro Yearwood given time and space to cross into the heart of the box for Fajardo to nod home between Matt Miazga and Tim Ream.

Weston McKennie led a 70-yard rush up that pitch led to a Yunus Musah-won free kick central atop the box. Reyna curled a low shot around the wall and beyond the reach of a diving Orlando Mosquera for his first USMNT goal.

It wasn’t 1-1 for long, as Gioacchini delivered the goods on a rebound from close range.

The center forward plays in Ligue 2 for Caen, where he’s scored three times in eight league matches this season. McKennie’s pressure and (probably) a foul helped Reyna pick up a loose ball and carry the ball toward the 18 before playing wide for Llanez.

Gioacchini deposited the rebound of a Uly Llanez shot to make it 2-1, and his second goal was some top-class poaching as well.

Tyler Adams released Weston McKennie toward the goal line, the Juve man overcoming a tug to chop his cross back across goal. Matt Miazga won a back post header in the other direction and a lunging Gioacchini header home for 3-1 after 25 minutes.

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The second half was tighter, as Panama became even more physical and the Yanks matched them.

The Yanks did not respond well, aside from a Reggie Cannon-won penalty that Gioacchini saw saved by Mosquera. Panama was much better and the U.S. didn’t find much control into the final 20 minutes.

Timothy Weah and Johnny Cardoso replaced Tyler Adams and Llanez in the 62nd, then Richy Ledezma made his USMNT debut for Reyna six minutes later.

Seabstian Soto then made his USMNT debut in the 77th minute, replacing Gioacchini as Sebastian Lletget came on for Musah.

Fajardo then got his second when Miazga stepped out of position and Panama found the space between the Anderlecht loanee and an unable-to-react Ream to make it 3-2.

Fortunately two debutants weren’t fazed, as Ledezma linked up with Soto before Cannon and Lletget supplied a similar play from more experienced players to make it 5-2.

Ledezma then found Soto at the back post for the game’s final goal.