FOX Soccer Exclusive
USA grabs huge win, defeats Panama
With the backing of a raucous Seattle crowd, the United States men’s national team went on the attack versus Panama and won a vital World Cup qualifier 2-0 to firm up its control of destiny on the road to World Cup in Brazil come 2014.
A first-half goal from man-of-the-match Jozy Altidore, followed by a second-half strike from Eddie Johnson gave the Americans the win in front of 40,847. Coupled with results earlier in the day, the win put Team USA on top by itself at the midway point of the six-team, 10-game North American qualifying group, which guarantees the top three finishers a spot in next year’s World Cup and puts the fourth into a playoff with New Zealand.
“We were very pleased with our performance,” head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “I think throughout the entire game we were in control of it. Every area of the field, the guys did their job.”
The home side was pushing forward with fervor from the outset, but their first true chance came in the 21st minute when Michael Bradley ripped a shot from inside the box that looked destined for the back of the net but got blocked by the boot of the unknowing Clint Dempsey.
The Americans were met with plenty of rough play from the Panamanian defense, leading to two credible claims for American penalties to no avail in the opening stanza. But then the USA first got on the scoreboard in the 36th minute when Bradley undertook a long run up the middle, hit the ball wide to the streaking Fabian Johnson, who in turn sent a low, bending cross to the second post, where Altidore tapped it into the vacant net.
It was the third goal for Altidore in as many games, a run that was preceded by a year-and-a-half-long scoring drought for the national team.
Panama gave the Americans a scare just as the first half was ending when a deft chip into the box left Luis Tejada 1-on-1 with Tim Howard. Tejada slipped it right past the goalkeeper, but the offside flag was up – allowing the Americans to go into the locker room with their 1-0 lead intact.
Faced with an anemic Panama attack that only mustered two shots on goal in the entire game, the USA sealed the win early in the second half when Geoff Cameron played a long ball from midfield over the top to Eddie Johnson, who beat the offside trap, took a nice touch and finished it with class for his 11th qualifying goal in 16 career games.
The goal was extra rewarding for the Seattle crowd, which hosted its first qualifying match since 1976, as Johnson plays for the local Sounders of the MLS.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side could have further padded their goal tally, but chances by Dempsey and Beasley pinged off the goal-frame, but that didn’t faze the crowd, which was the seventh-largest for a home qualifier in U.S. history.
The visitors had two quality attacks after the 80th minute, but shots by Alberto Quintero (over the bar) and substitute Rolando Blackburn (wide right) could not create the needed goals before the final whistle.
“Today we just kinda were more dominant,” Klinsmann said. “We had that confidence to control the game and it made it very difficult for a very good Panamanian side. I think today we deserved the result.”
About the only negative from the American performance were the yellow cards handed out to Altidore (56th minute), Cameron (69th) DaMarcus Beasley (90th) and Howard (90th), with Beasley’s being the most painful as he had a prior caution during this round of qualifying, meaning he will miss USA’s next game.
The victory extended Team USA’s unbeaten streak in home World Cup qualifying matches to 24 (22-0-2), a run that dates back to 2001. It also brought their winning streak in recent weeks to three, following a 4-3 friendly win over Germany on June 2 and a 2-1 qualifier triumph in and against Jamaica on June 7. The run-of-form couldn’t come at a better time, as we are officially one year away from the start of the World Cup.
Qualifying continues for Team USA in one week’s time as it faces Honduras, which is currently fourth in the group and beat the U.S. 2-1 at home in the hexagonal opener, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
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