USMNT ends winless streak with comfortable victory over Panama

BY Kyle McCarthy • February 8, 2015

CARSON, Calif. --

Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey rose to the occasion to end the U.S. men’s national team’s five-match winless streak with a 2-0 victory over Panama on Sunday.

Bradley punctuated a wonderful all-around display with an Olimpico to open the scoring after 27 minutes. Dempsey dashed onto a Gyasi Zardes pass and tacked on a second 10 minutes later to confirm the Americans’ smooth path to victory in their first home match of 2015.

It constituted the necessary potion for a side under increasing criticism for its performances over the past few months. This display marked a considerable improvement over those recent displays and provided the perfect ending to a January camp.

Two homemade banners calling for the ouster of Jurgen Klinsmann and an energetic start from the U.S. displayed the urgency of procuring a victory and producing a better performance here. The endeavor led the Americans to assert control in possession with Bradley charged with dictating terms in the revamped 4-2-3-1 setup, but it took a while for the necessary sharpness to emerge.

Panama spent much of the first half chasing the game and waiting for the home side to take a misplaced touch. Blas Perez hit a diagonal to the back stick in the wake of a free kick to catch out the occasionally scrambled defense. Eric Davis collected well, but Nick Rimando rushed off his line to cut down the angle and divert the effort away from danger.

It proved a rare foray for a Panamanian side increasingly overrun in the middle third, though the visitors were hard done when Dempsey escaped rebuke for lashing out prior to a corner kick. The American dominance in possession never yielded the expected opportunities in the early stages, but Bradley provided a vital foothold with the opener just before the half hour.

Bradley assessed his options from the left corner and spotted Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo cheating toward his near post. The midfielder curled his corner toward the back post. Jozy Altidore crashed toward the ball only to see it nestle inside the far post.

The Olimpico prompted a noticeable uptick from the increasingly potent home side. The combination play displayed more potency, while Bradley continued to exert complete dominion over the proceedings in the center of the park.

Those improvements ultimately yielded the critical second goal eight minutes before the interval. Zardes collected near the halfway line and drifted inside from his perch on the right. He looked up and split the Panamanian center backs with a carefully weighted ball through the line. Dempsey collected the ball in stride, skipped around Penedo with the necessary composure and tucked into the vacated net.

By this time, the Americans were well on top, but an unfortunate slip nearly handed Panama a route back into the match. Matt Besler lost his footing on the turf and permitted Blas Perez to collect inside the penalty area. Perez’s wayward effort squandered the chance to reduce the arrears and stunt the American superiority before halftime.

Panama offered few signs of a revival as the second half progressed even with Altidore withdrawn with a hamstring complaint during the interval. Hernan Dario Gomez threw substitute after substitute into the fray without producing any semblance of improvement.

At this point, the question shifted from the outcome to the margin of victory. Jermaine Jones snapped his free header straight at Penedo from eight yards after an inviting Bradley free kick, while halftime substitute Chris Wondolowski struggled to get his feet right with another inviting opening after the hour.

Tempers frayed a bit as the half unfolded with Panama reduced to modest scuffles and poor tackles in a futile bid to alter the calculus. Klinsmann took advantage of his side’s dominance to give Matt Hedges and Perry Kitchen into the fray for their first caps and introduce Luis Gil and Lee Nguyen for a brief runout in the final quarter of an hour.

Those measures reinforced the gulf between the sides and underscored the dynamic in the waning stages. There were no signs of late fade in Carson here, only a simple and straightforward conclusion to a first win since September and a necessary reprieve after a difficult stretch.

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