The United States men’s national team gets its a formal chance to take a measure of vengeance against the two teams which knocked it out of the last round of World Cup qualifying.
Trinidad and Tobago, of course, is the nation whose B-teamers beat the USMNT in Couva, allowing Panama to clinch a World Cup berth via a ghost goal.
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The Yanks will also meet Guyana in the first Group D match, which will be June 18 at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota.
It’ll be T&T versus the U.S. in Cleveland four days later, before the Yanks wrap up group play with Panama in Kansas City on June 26.
That’s about the only good news, as the Yanks are in arguably the toughest group of the bunch (though they should surely advance to the knockout rounds as a top seed).
Group C is also tough, with El Salvador joining Jamaica, Honduras, and Curacao.
Group B sees Costa Rica drawn with Haiti, Nicaragua, and Bermuda.
Group A is a great draw for Mexico and Canada, who will have to get past Martinique and Cuba.
Brazil boasted Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, and Casemiro in the starting lineup, but it wasn’t enough to get past Panama in a 1-1 friendly draw in Portugal.
Lucas Paqueta scored just past the half-hour mark to put Brazil in front, but they were pegged back just four minutes later and never recovered, managing just four shots on target despite an enormous 78% possession.
The AC Milan youngster opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, meeting Casemiro’s deep cross at the far post after having snuck behind Michael Murillo. His shot was slowed by goalkeeper Luis Mejia but he couldn’t keep it out, instead deflecting it into the back of the net. It marks the first international goal for the 21-year-old at the senior level, a moment to savor.
That could have sent Brazil on their way as Panama could hardly find a touch, but set-pieces proved their undoing. On a free-kick from the middle-third, Eric Davis floated in a deep delivery down the middle that met the head of Adolfo Machado who lept to barely meet the ball. His contact was perfection, looping the ball over the head of Ederson and into the top-left corner.
The match is Brazil’s first since they fell to Belgium in the knockout round of the World Cup, and it was used in part as an experiment, especially at the back. Regular defensive starters Thiago Silva and Marquinhos were on the bench as Tite chose to start 21-year-old Porto center-back Eder Militao in his club’s home stadium alongside 34-year-old Miranda. World Cup goalkeeper Alisson also saw the bench in favor of Manchester City starter Ederson, who was troubled by just two shots on target the entirety of the match.
Most notably, Neymar was absent from the squad as he recovers from a broken metatarsal that has kept him out since late January.
ICYMI, Gregg Berhalter began his USMNT reign with a win over a weakened Panama side Sunday night in Glendale, Ariz.
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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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 —
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.
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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.