Photo credit: Concacaf
Yesterday's match versus Panama in the Gold Cup final was the national team's most difficult yet, at least in the offensive front. Panama put up the best defensive performance of any team in the tournament with some of the finest clean slide tackles I have seen in a long time. Eventually, however, the American attack was too much and the US scored.
The match was a true coming of age for Mix Diskerud. After an unfortunate injury to Holden's right knee (could be serious), Diskerud entered the match in the 19th minute. Immediately, he started winning balls and maintaining possession and creating attack. Everything a box-to-box mid needs to do.
The defense had its share of issues on the flanks due to the "Canaleros" insistent and speedy wingers but the central defenders cleaned up most of the plays and Matt Besler showed why he's the best center back in the national team pool. Blas Perez was frustrated all afternoon and never quite attacked Rimando with clarity.
In the midfield, Beckerman controlled the incoming attacks down the middle and provided cover for the defense with quality. And while Corona faded off after halftime, Bedoya once again put himself in a position to be considered for the full national team from now on.
For the forwards, this was a particularly frustrating match. Eddie Johnson was often, cleanly, robbed of the ball and his attacks were largely ineffective but his defensive hold-up work was quality. Donovan was largely absent due to great man-to-man coverage from the Panamanian defense but eventually controlled the offensive side of the Americans that led to the winning goal. Brek Shea slotted home a pass from Bedoya that was on its way to the goal after Donovan missed his kick. She did this after only 42 seconds on the pitch.
The Americans, it should be noted, were missing their head coach Jurgen Klinsmann due to suspension after an unfortunate incident in the previous match versus Honduras when he spiked the ball in frustration over the referee's apparent lack of foul calls. Still Martin Vazquez and Herzog were able to transmit the coach's directions and Team USA performed. It shall be seen if the "B" players in the Gold Cup can break into the full national team. Landon Donovan is almost assured of this, but others have made their cases clear: Diskerud, Corona, Bedoya and Wondolowski. The next test, in which we could see a true mix of players will be the friendly match at Bosnia in August 14th.
Thank you, team USA, for providing us with another quality performance and a win in a major tournament. We believe once again that there is a bright future.
Subs: Diskerud (7.5), Shea (6.5), Gonzalez (NR)