Getty Images

What did we learn from USMNT’s win v Panama? (video)

Leave a comment

ICYMI, Gregg Berhalter began his USMNT reign with a win over a weakened Panama side Sunday night in Glendale, Ariz.

[ MORE: Recap | Player ratings ]

In front of a crowd of just over 9,000 fans (inside the 63,000 capacity State Farm Stadium), the U.S. men’s national team looked cohesive as their squad of players entirely from the MLS were hungry following their January camp.

The USMNT’s first goal came from debutant Djorde Mihailovic, who timed his run into the box perfectly and finished off a cross from another debutant, Corey Baird. It was a smooth move from the U.S. and a sign of things to come.

[ MORE: Gregg Berhalter reacts to win

Walker Zimmerman then powered home a header for the second, as the brilliant Nick Lima whipped in a perfect cross for the center back to attack. Lima was named man of the match as the right back has come from nowhere to make a name for himself during the January camp.

Another debutant, Christian Ramirez from LA FC, finished off the scoring as he tapped home after wonderful work from, you guessed it, another debutant in Jonathan Lewis.


 

But, what did we learn about this new-look, MLS centric USMNT squad?

  1. Berhalter will be pleased to see plenty of debutants deliver: Youngster Nick Lima and Djorde Mihailovic both impressed, while the likes of Jonathan Lewis and Christian Ramirez did themselves no harm whatsoever after jumping off the bench. Berhalter is keen to promote players from the U.S. youth teams, but we will see if that’s the case once he can select the European based players.
  2. Veteran central midfielder Michael Bradley put in a commanding display: Many will say his days with the USMNT should be over, but it’s clear that Berhalter believes Toronto FC’s skipper has an important role to play in the coming years to help get this team back on track. Bradley is 31 years old and showed he is still easily among the USMNT’s best central midfield options.
  3. Aaron Long excelled at center back as the new skipper:  Long’s rise from the USL to being the USMNT skipper in less than 18 months has been remarkable, and his partnership alongside Walker Zimmerman is promising. Considering the struggles of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga for consistent minutes in Europe, the MLS duo are proving their worth at the international level.
  4. This was a very poor Panama side: With only two regulars included in an 18-man squad made up entirely of those playing in the Panamanian leagues, it is tough to get too excited about the USMNT. Berhalter will know that, and he won’t get too carried away if the U.S. beat a similarly weakened Costa Rica on Saturday too. That said, this is far from the USA’s strongest lineup too. Perspective is needed, and this process of getting the U.S. back on track is going to be an arduous one.
  5. How many European based players would start in this USMNT team?: Christian Pulisic, DeAndre Yedlin, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Tim Weah, Josh Sargent, Bobby Wood and John Brooks look like they will be regulars, but apart from that there are plenty of places up for grabs. When you look at the options Berhalter will have for the friendly against Chile in March, it will be tricky for him to whittle this squad down to 23 players.

The above has certainly given Berhalter plenty of food for thought as he edges towards that game against Chile where he can select all of his European based players for the first time.

Below we take a look at the video highlights of the 3-0 win.



USMNT v. Panama preview, projected starting XI

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Gregg Berhalter era begins properly Sunday as he takes charge of his first game as the U.S. men’s national team head coach.

Panama are the opponents for the USMNT at State Farm Stadium at Glendale, Ariz. (kick off, 8 p.m. ET) with Berhalter having over three weeks to work with his squad of MLS players during the January camp.

We will all be looking to see if Berhalter has managed to bring his possession-based, direct style from Columbus to the USMNT, while realizing that the majority of his best players are in Europe and won’t suit up for the U.S. until March at the earliest.

With Michael Bradley the most experienced player by far, it will be intriguing to see who lines up for Berhalter as the likes of Wil Trapp, Zack Steffen and Gyasi Zardes will no doubt play a huge role for the USMNT moving forward after playing under Berhalter with the Columbus Crew.

The likes of Mihailovic, Baird, Canouse and Lovitz have all reportedly impressed during the January camp, while Jonathan Lewis, Jerome Ebobisse and Christian Ramirez are also all in line to make their debuts.

Panama will not provide the toughest test for Berhalter’s side as the game falls outside of the FIFA match window and only seven of their 18-man squad have previously played for the national team. Forward Abdiel Arroyo and defender Fidel Escobar are the two experienced players for Los Canaleros.

Below is a look at a projected starting lineup for the USMNT against Panama, as they also face Costa Rica in a friendly in San Jose, Calif. on Feb. 2 before a clash with Chile in March.


Projected starting lineup for USMNT (4-3-3)

—– Steffen —–

—- Cannon — Zimmerman — Long — Lovitz —

—- Bradley —- Trapp —-

—– Mihailovic —–

— Arriola — Zardes — Baird —

Berhalter to make January debut when USMNT hosts Panama

AP Photo/John Raoux
Leave a comment

Gregg Berhalter will lead a team of domestic-based players onto the pitch in Arizona next month, as the new USMNT manager takes his seat in the dugout for the first time.

[ MORE: Four big Berhalter questions ]

Unveiled by U.S. Soccer on Tuesday, the former Columbus Crew coach will lead the USMNT against Panama on Jan. 27 in Glendale, Arizona.

Panama (and Honduras) pipped the U.S. to a World Cup spot a year ago when the Yanks lost in Trinidad and Tobago and Roman Torres was wrongly awarded a goal that did not cross a line against Honduras.

It’ll be the 20th match against Panama, with 12 wins and six draws against a single loss in the first 19.

Sorting the CONCACAF nations on the road to Qatar 2022

Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The United States men’s national team picked up a feel-good win over Mexico on Tuesday in Nashville, and there’s no reason to feel bad about enjoying the win.

Yet as general manager Earnie Stewart sorts through his options regarding the next full-time coach of the USMNT, where do the Yanks sit in the race to qualify for Qatar 2022?

[ MORE USMNT-MEXICO: 3 things | Player ratings ]

Yes, the World Cup is still going to Qatar. Yes, the games will be played in December in the middle of the night local time. Had to be said, again.

First and foremost, assuming the World Cup stays at 32 teams in the 3+1 CONCACAF qualifying format, who are the front-runners to make the Hex?

Let’s say the chalk plays out through qualifying and these 12 teams make the fourth round of qualifying. Since the Hex began for the 1998 cycle, the following nations have participated: USMNT (all), Mexico (all), Costa Rica (all), Honduras (4), Trinidad and Tobago (4), Panama (3), Jamaica (3), El Salvador (2), Guatemala (2006), Canada (1998).

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]

We still don’t know which U-20 sides will qualify for next summer’s U-20 World Cup — qualifying is in November — but the U.S. won the CONCACAF U-20 title in 2017, with Mexico winning the previous three, and Costa Rica before that. Panama were runners-up in 2015, so it’s a pretty good predictor of the pipeline.

Here are the current Elo Ratings and FIFA world rankings for CONCACAF sides:

Mexico — Elo 20, FIFA 16
USMNT — Elo 26, FIFA 22
Costa Rica — Elo 43, FIFA 32
Honduras — Elo 58, FIFA 61
Panama — Elo 63, FIFA 69
Jamaica — Elo 67, FIFA 54
Canada — Elo 73, FIFA 79
Guatemala — Elo 80, FIFA 146
Haiti — Elo 84, FIFA 104
El Salvador — Elo 87, FIFA 72
Trinidad and Tobago — Elo 96, FIFA 91
Curacao — Elo 132, FIFA 81

For now, we will only rank the sides who have qualified to a prior Hex, though Haiti has a chance to impress us and join in the next power rankings some time in the future.

Long shots: El Salvador, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica

Hex candidates: Panama, Canada, Honduras

Yes, Panama qualified for the World Cup, but it happened via a goal that never crossed the line and the poor performances of an American team that rarely showed up to work and a Honduran team which just couldn’t pull it together. Still, it’s best player at the World Cup were young: Ricardo Avila (21), Yoel Barcenas (24), and Jose Luis Rodriquez (20). Need to figure out life post-Felipe Baloy, Blas Perez, and (probably) Jaime Penedo.

Honduras is going to be in the discussion due to home field advantage alone. Even when Los Catrachos aren’t shining at San Pedro Sula, they are a handful. A bit longer in the tooth than you’d like for a tournament run, young forward Alberth Elis has to join Romell Quioto, Bryan Acosta, and Anthony Lozano in taking the next step.

The wild card here is Canada, which remains a green project and has new leadership in former WNT coach John Herdman. He will have a trio of teens at significant clubs when Alphonso Davies leaves Vancouver for Bayern Munich, joining Jonathan David at Gent and Liam Millar at Liverpool (Alessandro Busti is with Juventus B and Zahcary Brault-Guilard, Lyon). TFC’s Jonathan Osorio is in his prime, Cyle Larin isn’t there yet, and goalkeeper Milan Borjan starts on Red Star Belgrade.

Hex participants: Costa Rica, USMNT

Let’s start with the one of the bunch which played in the World Cup; Costa Rica is a difficult team to read. It will qualify for the Hex because it’s never failed to and it won’t be too old… yet. Of the 13 players to play more than 100 minutes for Los Ticos at the World Cup, only Joel Campbell and Francisco Calvo (both 26) were under the age of 28. All five players who manned all 270 minutes of the World Cup were 30 or older.

The reason the United States men’s national team’s failure to qualify for Russia was considered a disaster is that the Yanks should never, ever, ever miss a World Cup given their talent and resources. Even with Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore getting on in years for their respective positions, the new manager could instantly trot out this lineup in CONCACAF and not worry about experience or age (at least not too much, and we’re not yet including Geoff Cameron):

Steffen

Yedlin — Miazga — Brooks — Lichaj

Adams — D. Williams — McKennie

Pulisic — Altidore — Wood

Subs: Guzan, Acosta, Weah, Green, Bradley, Ream, Sargent

The unquestioned No. 1: Mexico

Sure the U.S. was missing big names Pulisic, Brooks, Cameron, Bradley, and Altidore in the 1-0 win over Mexico, but El Tri was without a whole lot more. Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera, Diego Reyes, Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Raul Jimenez, Carls Vela, Hirving Lozano, Chicharito (I’m just gonna stop now).

Mexico’s very best players are playing for some of the best clubs in the world, and Liga MX is still plenty ahead of MLS in depth and churning out youngsters.

Tunisia comes back to beat Panama

AP Photo/Darko Bandic
Leave a comment

Wahbi Khazri‘s 66th minute goal joined his assist on the scoresheet as Tunisia left the World Cup with a win, defeating Panama 2-1 on Thursday.

Fakhreddine Ben Youssef also scored for Tunisia, which conceded via an own goal.

Both teams were eliminated from knockout round contention before kickoff.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Panama took a surprising lead when Jose Luis Rodriguez’s shot was turned into the Tunisian goal by Yassine Meriah.

Tunisia went level when Khabri fed Ben Youssef in the 51st minute.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

That’s when Oussama Haddadi’s cross met Khazri at the back post to give the African side its second lead.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]