PANAMA CITY, Panama – Jurgen Klinsmann had a plan all along.
The US suffered mightily on the road against Panama at Estadio Rommel Fernández on Wednesday night, but came away with a labored 1-0 win. It was just what the coach was looking for.
“We wanted to introduce the players to those difficult games away from home out of their comfort zone,” Klinsmann said in the postmatch press conference. “So to come here and experience this, I think we did very well tonight. You could see it after the red card. We couldn’t create any more chances but it really paid off, especially coming down here, you could see.”
A feisty, mostly U-23 Panama team took the game to a less interested US squad, and looked the better team in front of a lively crowd for much of the match even before Geoff Cameron was sent off early in the second half.
“The game kind of had a different character after the sending off. That made it more difficult for us,” said the coach. “The way we executed in the last half-hour, especially technically, was very good. The red card changes the strategy and prevents us from bringing on another forward and continuing to push forward, but overall, I think the team adapted well.”
The players by and large agreed. The tough atmosphere they faced on the road against an aggressive Panama team, especially down a man in the second half, can only help as this group looks to supplement the first-team regulars moving ahead through World Cup qualifying.
“It’s a young team and I think we can really learn from these types of games,” said midfielder Jermaine Jones, who captained the Americans for the second straight match. “They can learn how to go the right speed, how to slow it down when you don’t really need to go at speed. These are tough games and I think it really helps to get the feel.”
Though neither of the Americans’ 1-0 friendly victories over the past five days were pretty, the was a general feeling among the team of a job well done after nearly a month of intensive training across three time zones and two countries.
“Leaving this kind of three-and-a-half week training camp with two games like this has worked out well for us,” Klinsmann said. “Overall, it was a great camp, a difficult camp – you can ask the players. Coming down here, we needed to see who could suffer. These were things we wanted to see, and they gave us a lot of answers to our feedback.”
A lot of hard work, plenty of suffering and some adversity thrown in on top. The “Camp Cupcake” label by which the January camp used to be known is probably ready be retired for good.