Panama-USA preview: Vital for USMNT to find the back of the net

The first USMNT game in nearly nine months was an absolute snooze-fest. Gregg Berhalter rolled out a lineup that had plenty of talent but was tactically confounding (six midfielders and no strikers for the bulk of the 90 minutes). And as so often happens when Gregg Berhalter’s international sides run into opposition that isn’t ranked in the bottom half of the world, nobody could find the net. While many fans were happy just to have a US game to watch again, plenty of other fans were not at all happy with yet another zero on the scoresheet for the team. Luckily, this November window has a second game as the US gears up to take on a familiar foe in Panama.

It was quite frankly a little galling that so many in the American soccer media felt the need to preach to the public that Thursday’s 0-0 draw against Wales was cause for celebration (though it does speak to just how far in the proverbial bag most of the media is for Berhalter, a luxury former US boss Jurgen Klinsmann never enjoyed). Of course, the usual excuses that have been used to defend Berhalter were trotted out: only a few days in camp to prepare, Pulisic was out injured, it’s just a friendly, etc. Wales was without Gareth Bale (who didn’t even dress for the game and instead sat in a private box watching the Masters) so the best player excuse for the US holds no water. The US didn’t even register a shot on goal against a Wales team missing not just their best player, but their regular goalkeeper too. For all of the talk about how good Gregg Berhalter’s team in Columbus were at scoring goals, it sure hasn’t translated to the international level. And with a game against Panama up next, that doesn’t seem likely to change immediately as the Panamanians typically engage in slugfests with the US.

Like just about every country on the planet, Panama’s plans for 2020 were thrown into chaos by the COVID pandemic. Like the US, they managed to get a couple of friendlies in before the world shut down: a 0-0 draw with Nicaragua in February and a 2-0 win against Guatemala in March. Unlike the US, however, Panama resumed playing games in October instead of waiting until November: a pair of 1-0 wins over Costa Rica. Their first game of this current window was a 1-0 loss to Japan in Graz, Austria. The roster for this camp called in by Thomas Christiansen (former Leeds United manager) is stocked with player experience but is surprisingly light on goals. Goalkeeper Luis Mejia has 25 caps. Four defenders have at least 37 caps (Michael Murillo, Fidel Escobar, Eric Davis, Harold Cummings) while a pair of midfielders have over 100 caps (Armando Cooper and Anibal Godoy). Up front, Gabriel Torres has 86 caps. That’s a solid number of experienced players but only Torres has scored double-digit goals for Los Canaleros with 18. None of the other strikers on the roster have scored and only Murillo, Cooper, and Abdiel Ayarza have hit more than once.

Notes:

1. Last Thursday’s draw against Wales extended the US’ winless streak in true road games (games played against a country on their home soil) to 11 games. The last US win in a true road game was October 2016 in Havana against Cuba.

2. This game against Panama (played in Austria) is the second time in the last four games that the US will play a game at a “neutral site” (a game against somebody in neither team’s home country). Their last game in 2019 was against Cuba in the Cayman Islands.

3. Gregg Berhalter has been the US manager for 20 games now, and in those 20 games the US has been shut out in 6 games and been held to just one goal in an additional 5 games.

When and where to watch the game on TV and streaming:
Monday, November 16, 2020
Wiener Neustadter Stadion, Wiener Neustadt, Austria
2:45pm ET
Live on FS1, UniMas, TUDN, fuboTV, Sling Blue, Hulu + Live TV and Vidgo (free trial)

All-time series
USA leads 14-1-6

Last meeting:
June 26, 2019
Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kansas
USA 1-0 Panama

Current FIFA ranking
USA: 22
Panama: 77

Next match:
To be determined

 

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One Response

  1. Bill November 16, 2020

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