Most of my takes, both good and bad, following the USMNT's disappointing 1-1 draw against Panama to open the Gold Cup, are contained in the Club & Country video above. The lineup wasn't quite right, the midfield and defense were stretched which allowed Panama easy distributive paths straight upfield, and our lack of speed meant they weren't at all afraid of pulling their backline up. Nobody on the US was a threat to get in behind them, and credit to Hernan Dario Gomez for understanding that quite well.
Here are a few more bullet points I wasn't able to really get to in the show:
These two guys have both had some very good games in Red, White & Blue, and both have a place in the player pool. Yesterday's game was probably another data point that says they don't work particularly well together.
Both Besler and Omar are "contain"-type central defenders, occasionally to the point of passivity. It was especially apparent in the second half, but there was hints of it in the first half as well. Miguel Camargo's bending shot that Brad Guzan had to tip around the back post in the 27th minute was a good example, as the whole sequence was born of a slow and disappointing closedown in the middle of the pitch, which stranded Graham Zusi 1v1:
Too often when we talk about players after games we tend toward "he is/was bad!" or "he is/was good!" I'd rather see more discussion about partnerships than individual value judgements, since partnerships are the base building block of our game. Besler and Gonzalez aren't a great partnership, which is why I'd rather have seen Matt Hedges in for one or the other.
This isn't to say that Hedges is a cure-all. He might not be able to get the job done at the international level. But right now and for the last four years, we have a frequent problem: When Geoff Cameron's not out there, the US central defense is too back-foot and disorganized.
• Zusi still struggles in isolation.
The guy's learning the spot and he's a gamer and he's relentless and he adds value moving forward from right back. But he drops too deep defending in space. The above was one example of several from Saturday's game, and of course there were others from the March qualifier at Panama (also a 1-1 draw).
I'm surprised we haven't seen Eric Lichaj yet.
• Alejandro Bedoya is not a winger in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3.
He's been really good as a No. 8 for the Union this year – a guy who's a cog in a functional midfield, who makes it easier on everyone else with his heady two-way play but isn't asked to unlock the game. I'd like to see him feature there on the depth chart, while giving more time on the wing to the likes of Paul Arriola or Jordan Morris.
The US needed someone out there with "get into the final third" instincts and that's not really Bedoya's game.
• Juan Agudelo showed well both on the wing and when he floated inside.
Other than Dom Dwyer and Kelyn Rowe, Agudelo looked like the big winner from a USMNT perspective yesterday. He was brave in terms of where he got the ball, secure on it, and aggressive pushing forward. I wouldn't at all hate seeing some form of a 4-4-2 with Agudelo up top, getting the ball to feet and then either combining around the box or trying to send runners through.
• The pattern of play obvious against Ghana was nowhere to be found against Panama.
The US looked best against the Ghanaians when Joe Corona would drop a bit deeper while the wingers stayed high and wide, changing the 4-2-3-1 to more of a 4-3-3. That also opened the central channel for Dom Dwyer to drop in, check back and receive the ball directly to feet.
Corona, instead, just floated between the lines. He rarely saw the ball and wasn't at all influential. Disappointing performance from him.
• Kellyn Acosta played soft.
His passing was sloppy and he frequently devolved into what I call "drive-by defense." You can see it above on the goal, where he seems surprised that Camargo is so much more committed to getting onto that loose ball in the box.
To Acosta's credit, he owned the bad performance publicly:
And he's right: The game on Wednesday against Martinique is now very, very big. The US have to win by as many as possible since they're in a goal differential race to the top of the group against the Panamanians.
It'll take a more cohesive and committed effort, and a more complimentary squad selection to get the job done.