A trend for several teams at the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup so far as been to rotate lineups extensively in the group stage. But the US men's national team haven't opted for that, yet, ahead of their third game, against Panama on Wednesday (9 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN).
With his team picking up two wins in their first two games, USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter explained to media at training in Kansas City on Monday that the need to find continuity won out over making big changes game to game.
"Part of us analyzing the game against Guyana is saying 'OK, we need to take another step as a group, we need to keep progressing as a group,' it made more sense to play the same lineup," Berhalter explained. "So we looked at who performed well at their position, who was able to keep their spot and we found that everyone was able to keep their spot in this case. As we go into the Panama game, the guys are feeling good right now. So for us, it's assessing where everyone is and then making the appropriate decisions."
Berhalter didn't indicate one way or another whether he had changes in mind for the showdown, with the winner of that game winning the group. But he said that the balance the staff sought to introduce between ages and experience levels on the international stage was important to give players a launching pad for qualification for the 2022 World Cup.
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"I think it's balancing the roster. I think you naturally do that by the players you select. The thing about this group, we have some veterans on this team, but we also have some young players. We thought it was very important to give young guys tournament experience as we develop towards 2022."
Panama were expected to be the toughest team in the USMNT's group, and while passage to the knockout round is already assured for both sides, ramping up to the toughest game in the group can be useful for the Americans to build game over game.
"Obviously they're a tough opponent in Concacaf, we've had a lot of really good games with them," defender Walker Zimmerman said. "We saw them in January, but it's a lot of different players coming into camp for them, so we expect a tough game. Same time, our goal is to win the group, we aren't just satisfied advancing through and we set a goal to win the group beforehand. That's certainly going to be on our mind and I know everyone will be up for it.
"I think Panama, they bring a little more possession to their game, maybe a little more dynamic attack. Probably a little bit more organized as well, and they definitely have more experience," he continued.
Berhalter gave Los Canaleros kudos for their mindset and style.
"I really like Panama, I really do. They've been doing a good job. I like their defensive shape, I like their tenacity. They played a good game against Trinidad, scored some good goals, and I think it's a good group. I like some of their younger players. [Omar] Browne, he's in MLS, he's done a good job and it's a strong team."