The Panamanians seemed a tad testy before tonight’s Group C match, though it’s hard to blame them. We did cut their country in half and refuse to leave for the better part of a century.
Panama competed well with the U.S. at recent tournaments. The Americans went to penalty kicks with them in the 2005 final. They needed late goals to dispose of them in 2007 and 2009. Though (as we know in this country) when you hold losses as emblems of achievement, you’re not so impressive. Panama’s purported strong suit is defense. They nearly blew a 3-0 second-half lead to Guadeloupe, who were down to ten men.
The U.S. will have trouble for Panama, not so much from ability as from their style. Bradley’s team is more comfortable being beaten back, booting the ball long and running into space on swift counterattacks. Panama will sit back, forcing them to hold possession, to dictate the game and to construct chances form open play. Generally, that “half-court offense” is where the Americans struggle lamely. The U.S. beat Canada because they were better finishers, not because they denied the northerners opportunities.
Whether it’s the Starting XI or a halftime adjustment, expect the U.S. to shift to a lone striker formation. Having an extra ball player in midfield will give them the fluidity and creativity they need to break Panama down.
Prediction: 2-1 U.S., in a match far closer than it needs to be.
[Photo via Getty]
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