Anibal Godoy

Associated Press

Three key battles for USMNT in critical match vs Panama

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The United States faces a critical World Cup qualifier on Friday, one that will likely determine their fate next summer.

Three points is the only result which will allow US fans and players to breathe. Anything else, and help is required to secure qualification. So how will the United States make the journey to victory?

[ MORE: Full preview for USA vs. Panama ]

Here are three key battles the US will need to focus on as they look to beat Panama on home soil.

1) US attack finding space vs. Panama defense

There’s no question that Panama will look to defend first. Even a draw in this match is a positive result for the visiting side as they sit a point above the United States as it stands. With that in mind, the US attack will need to take its chances and take them well. They’ll only get so many opportunities up front, and can’t afford to miss.

Panama captain Ramon Torres anchors their defense, and between he and center-back partner Fidel Escobar, the two have a wealth of experience playing all across the CONCACAF region. For the United States to find success up front, they’ll need to prod the center-back pairing to falling out of position with movement on and off the back line. Whoever starts up front will need to help off the ball just as much as on the ball.

2) US full-backs against Panama full-backs

The United States’ weakest position is at full-back, and Bruce Arena made an extremely controversial call by leaving Fabian Johnson off the roster. It may work out and it may not, but the head man will have to own it either way. Without Johnson, it means the likely starters will be DeAndre Yedlin on the right and Jorge Villafana on the left, with Graham Zusi and Demarcus Beasley possibly in the mix. It will be interesting to see how often they are instructed to bomb forward with the pressure US puts on the Panama defense, but given how prone the two are to getting forward, they’ll need to remain focused on the possibility of a counter.

Yedlin has improved vastly on his defensive abilities while with Newcastle, a massive benefit to the United States, but he and Villafana will need to win the battle with the full-backs on their side, or the US will struggle to find victory.

3) Michael Bradley vs. Anibal Godoy and Gabriel Gomez

Depending on the formation Bruce Arena chooses to deploy, Michael Bradley could have varying roles, but with the United States likely looking to take the initiative at home in a must-win match, he will likely be in a midfield pivot with multiple roles. He will need to be stout in all roles, because they’ll all be equally important to secure victory.

Firstly, Bradley will likely be man-marked by Anibal Godoy in the attacking half, with the Panama defensive midfielder charged with holding firm in front of his back line. He will look to keep Bradley from feeding the attack, and it will be on the US engine to distribute effectively.

On the other end, Bradley will need to be on his heels. Panama is effective on the counter-attack, and Gabriel Gomez will be at the forefront of any push up the field. Gomez isn’t a creative force, but on the counter could be the controller up the middle. He will look to feed the former Colorado Rapids striker, who is in good form with the national team. It will be on Bradley to not let things get out of control on the other end when the US pushed forward hard.

Own goal sends Costa Rica past Panama (video)

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
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An Anibal Godoy own goal was the difference as Costa Rica nipped Panama for a semifinal spot in the 2017 Gold Cup with a 1-0 win on Wednesday in Philadelphia.

Costa Rica moves onto play the winner of the United States and El Salvador, with that match kicking off at 9:15 p.m. ET.

[ MORE: Where does Morata rank in PL? ]

A tight first half opened up for both sides in the second, at least in terms of chances.

Panama’s Miguel Camargo (NYCFC) was a huge part of Los Canaleros’ counterattacking plans, and used the left wing to his advantage in testing Patrick Pemberton with a cross.

At the other end, it became clear that Panama backstop Jose Calderon was up for the challenge of upsetting Costa Rica, stopping a hard toe-poke from Bryan Ruiz amongst a series of second-half stops.

New York Red Bulls man Michael Murillo sprung onto a chance for Panama in the 64th minute, but couldn’t wrap his foot around the chance.

With Pemberton and Calderon both having solid nights, it was going to take something unusual for a breakthrough.

That came from San Jose Earthquakes center back Godoy, who rose to clear a Costa Rican free kick only to see his header slip back behind Calderon.

The Panama backstop made a pair of saves in the following stages to keep it 1-0, though Los Canaleros rarely looked ready to send the match to penalty kicks.

Four takeaways from MLS Week 2

Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
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Four teams are 2-0 and just two are winless after two weeks of MLS 2017, and there are several surprises amongst that sextet with zeroes in one column.

That’s where we’ll begin our look around Major League Soccer following another wild weekend.

[ MORE: Chelsea 1-0 Man Utd | 3 things from JPW ]


Awful dismissal puts LA in (more) unfamiliar territory

Embellishing Portland Timbers players sold referee Baldomero Toledo on a pair of yellow cards for Jelle van Damme in what effectively doomed the Galaxy’s comeback bid in California.

That leaves the Galaxy at 0-2 for the first time since 2001, and both of these losses came at home. In a league where home losses have been rare, it’s shocking to see LA staring down that mark.

They’ll be fine — both sides were missing stars on Sunday, and the Galaxy still nearly found a point — but perhaps LA faces a tougher road to the playoffs than previous seasons as new manager Curt Onalfo and several new Galaxy players learn each other.

Minnesota United is in a heap of trouble

Either of the Loons’ season-opening 5-1 losses could be chalked off as relatively insignificant, but the fact that both the debut defeat at Portland and Sunday’s battering by visiting Atlanta United showcased woefully inept defending says Minnesota has a legit shot at one of the worst records of all-time.

No team has won less than six matches in a season since DC United won three in 2013. Minnesota will be hard-pressed to hit the six figure, though perhaps the MLS experience of Bobby Shuttleworth — thrust into the lineup after a Sunday injury to John Alvbage — can help stem the bleeding.

Two-and-oh-my

Three of the four teams to start the year 2-0 missed the playoffs last season.

Perhaps none is more impressive than the start from Wilmer Cabrera’s Houston Dynamo, but since we covered that last week let’s deal with the others. We’ll also leave Portland be for now.

There was supposed to be an adjustment process for the New York Red Bulls without Dax McCarty, but Jesse Marsch is proving that doubting him is futile.

[ MORE: Conte is becoming what Mourinho was ]

New York’s bunch now boasts a win on little rest (and cross-continent travel) in a rambunctious Bobby Dodd Stadium as well as a 1-0 win against Colorado. Credit Sean Davis for a lot of that, as the 24-year-old has a league-best 7 tackles.

Then there’s San Jose, who went full “Goonies” in erasing Vancouver’s 2-0 lead on Saturday, one week after toppling Montreal 1-0. Yes, the Quakes were aided by a 23rd minute red card to Vancouver keeper David Ousted, but they also needed to come out of the gates well for embattled boss Dominic Kinnear. They are doing just that, and Anibal Godoy has been a massive part of San Jose’s success.

Philly’s very secret weapon

The Union have a pair of draws to open the season, and both are impressive for any number of reasons. Keeping Vancouver to a 0-0 result in British Columbia on Opening Weekend was nice, but dealing with blowing a lead against Toronto only to fight back for a point is next level.

One player who’s been hard to miss in both matches in 20-year-old center midfielder Derrick Jones, the Ghana-born U.S. U-20 man who’s come through the Union system from academy to USL to MLS. Sure there will be growing pains for the 6-foot-3, lightning quick Jones, but through two games he’s looking like a bonafide USMNT prospect.

BONUS: David Villa is still really, really good

When he came over from La Liga off a 13-goal season, we shouldn’t have been looking at his age. We’ll leave the rest of this takeaway to Andy Edwards’ recap of New York City FC’s 4-0 defeat of DC United.

MLS (late-night) roundup: HOU hammer CLB; MTL blow late lead to SEA

Photo credit: Houston Dynamo / Twitter: @HoustonDynamo
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With two MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 32 more to go…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Houston Dynamo 3-1 Columbus Crew SC

If you don’t know about the #BabyDynamo, it’s time you familiarize yourself with Wilmer Cabrera’s young (average age of attacking players used on Saturday: 23.4), attack-minded (five goals scored through two games) side. Erick (no longer “Cubo”) Torres has two goals in two games after his stunner completed Saturday’s rout of Columbus; Romell Quioto is the early leader in the clubhouse for Newcomer of the Year after bagging his second in two games; and Alberth Elis looked far more comfortable in his second MLS game, tallying his first goal since arriving in the offseason.

Ola Kamara notched Columbus’s consolation goal, his first of 2017, late into second-half stoppage time.

Montreal Impact 2-2 Seattle Sounders

Seattle’s MLS Cup hangover continued, for 60 minutes at least, as Montreal raced out to a comfortable 2-0 lead on the hard, bouncy artificial playing surface at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Ignacio Piatti’s inch-perfect through ball set up Matteo Mancosu for the game’s opening goal in the 17th minute, but it Piatti’s individual effort, racing 50 yards with the ball at his feet before firing past Stefan Frei from 20 yards out, six minutes after halftime which stole the spotlight until very late on.

Jordan Morris went down to win a penalty for Seattle with fewer than 10 minutes remaining in the second half, and Nicolas Lodeiro converted to make it 2-1. Montreal held their slender margin deep into stoppage time, but Will Bruin, having entered the game just eight minutes earlier, turned home a loose ball from five yards out to snatch the defending champions’ first point of 2017.

[ MORE: MLS (afternoon) roundup — Chicago’s on Fire; Giovinco injured ]

San Jose Earthquakes 3-2 Vancouver Whitecaps

From 2-0 down after 17 minutes, to a man up after 23 minutes, to 3-2 up after 79 minutes — just like that — San Jose are level with Houston for the Western Conference’s top spot.

Erik Hurtado and Nicolas Mezquida put the visitors ahead early on, but David Ousted got himself sent off for taking down Chris Wondolowski in the open field, and the comeback was on. Wondolowski pulled one back just after the half-hour mark, before notching the assist on Nick Lima’s first MLS goal nine minutes after halftime, and Anibal Godoy made it 3-2 with 11 minutes of regular time remaining.

Sporting Kansas City 0-0 FC Dallas

With FCD opting to field a largely second-team squad (CONCACAF Champions League semifinal first leg on Wednesday), Sporting KC enjoyed over 68 percent of the game’s possession, as the defending Supporters’ Shield winners — average age of 14 players used on Saturday: 24.1 — proved too well-drilled and disciplined to allow a clear-cut scoring chance all night. Oscar Pareja leads the “play your kids” movement, and with very good reason: they’re an extremely talented, mature bunch.

Elsewhere in MLSAFTERNOON ROUNDUP

Chicago Fire 2-0 Real Salt Lake
New York Red Bulls 1-0 Colorado Rapids
Philadelphia Union 2-2 Toronto FC

MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 31

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Week 31 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is in the books, and in its wake comes the least star-studded MLS Team of the Week squad we’ve seen all year — just three Designated Players: two of which are center backs; the other a striker, but not one of “those” big names.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Go ahead, try to spot the Designated Players in this week’s Team of the Week (below). Suffice it to say, it was another strange weekend around the World’s Most Unpredictable League™.

[ WEEK 31: SEA 1-1 LA | RBNY 2-1 CLB | TFC 3-1 PHIFCD 4-1 HOU ]

Tim Melia stood on his head in Portland (again), which made Krisztian Nemeth’s Goal of the Year candidate (if you haven’t watched it yet, do so now). David Texeira scored twice to lead FCD’s rout of Houston, while Harry Shipp scored one and assisted one as the Fire shocked the world and the Revs.

Thoughts? Questions? Agreements? Disagreements? (Of course not.) Leave them in the comments section, as always. I’m not afraid to defend my picks.

[ MORE: 2015 MLS Team of the Week archive ]

MLS Team of the Week — Week 31

Goalkeeper: Tim Melia (Sporting Kansas City)

MLS Goalkeeper

Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Damien Perrinelle (New York Red Bulls)

MLS Defenders

Midfielders: Harry Shipp (Chicago Fire), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes)

MLS Midfielders

Forwards: David Texeira (FC Dallas), Gilberto (Chicago Fire), Krisztian Nemeth (Sporting Kansas City)

MLS Forwards