A full, complete highlight reel from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Panama this evening is as follows:
Aside from this nifty Christian Pulisic move to set up Clint Dempsey, the USMNT did not do much of consequence down in Panama City. They put three shots on goal, and none of them besides Dempsey’s bothered Jaime Penedo. Supposed line-leading striker Jozy Altidore managed 14 anonymous touches before he came off in the 83rd minute.
The United States defense was not much better, working with a back line tonight that could charitably described as patchwork. Slow, loping Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream manned the center of defense while an out-of-place-looking Jorge Villafaña and Graham Zusi primarily ran around ineffectually. Zusi is not a natural fullback and he has no place at that position in a World Cup qualifier, but without Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin, the USMNT don’t have many auxiliary options.
Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones are USMNT legends, but tonight they did not show much, with Bradley’s passing notably uneven. He covered ground, as he always does, but he wasn’t nearly as much of a pest in defensive midfield as he usually is. Shortly after Dempsey’s opener, the U.S.’s soft defense gave up a soft equalizer. You’d expect a roster stocked with MLS vets not to concede on a long throw in, and yet here we are.
This is a very dumb goal to give up, and some poor Panama finishing combined with 2014-era heroics from Tim Howard kept it from getting worse. Panama should not pose much of an offensive threat in theory, but the USMNT continually got stretched out on the wings and ceded the soft middle of their midfield to rampaging Panama attackers. This xG map feels about right.
The United States tried out some late substitutions, but the game felt dead after about 55 minutes and it stayed dead from there on out.
While there’s always a lingering feeling of disappointment when the USMNT leaves meat on the bone against an inferior team, leaving Panama City with a point is more or less what the USMNT needed out of this game. It’s hard to win on the road in CONCACAF, and after the disastrous start that the USMNT got off to in qualifying, fans should be happy with a point. I mean, shit, ESPN says you should be happy with a point.
The United States is still good enough to qualify for the World Cup, and they will go to Russia in 2018 if they simply win their home games. Costa Rica, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago will travel to the States later this year, while the USMNT will visit Mexico, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago. The team is in fourth right now, a point behind Panama, but they have a great goal differential and they will hopefully be healthier in the games to come.
A full-strength USMNT squad would probably see the entire back line replaced by Johnson, Yedlin, John Anthony Brooks, and Geoff Cameron. One hopes that Bobby Wood or, hell, Aron Johansson will be healthy enough come June to get Altidore out of the paint as well. Point is, the USMNT got the draw they needed tonight, and the process, ugly as it was, will likely improve going forward as more players join the team and Arena gets used to his roster.