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What we learned from Tuesday’s U.S. win over Panama

Jun 12, 2013, 12:28 AM EDT

Panama v United States - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Getty Images

The United States is in fabulous shape: Jurgen Klinsmann’s team is top of the group, two points ahead of Mexico, never mind that El Tri has played an extra match. By this time next week, the United States can have one leg and a couple of arms already in Brazil. Because a win over Honduras next week in Salt Lake City will see the Americans with 13 points with four matches remaining – and it probably takes 14 or 15 points to book an automatic spot into Brazil.

The crowd got it right chanting “We’re going to Brazil!” after Tuesday’s second goal.

For the record, this will be the seventh in a row.

Dominant win, you asked for … ?: For everyone somehow not satisfied with last week’s win on the road – and fans, whether they like it or not, should always be satisfied with any win on the road in World Cup qualifying – well, here it was.

Tim Howard had just a few routine catches and one traffic-impaired punch before a stoppage time moment called on him to hurry off his line for a swell save. The United States midfield bossed things all night. This one was quite comfortable.

(One word of contextual warning: All credit to the U.S. midfield, every member of which had a night to remember, but Panama’s midfield is weak. If Tuesday’s visitors arrive into their first World Cup, and they may, it will be on the strength of their center backs and strikers, mostly Blas Perez, who was missing Tuesday.

(MORE: U.S. player ratings vs. Panama)

Klinsmann nailed it with his changes: Needing to find replacements for the suspended Graham Zusi and injured Jermaine Jones, Klinsmann couldn’t have done much better. Eddie Johnson filled in along the right (for Zusi), working the position simply and effectively, picking his spots to take on defenders – letting the game come to him, as they say, rather than trying to do too much. Then, he got the big second half insurance goal in front of the home fans.

And about that goal, what made it was Geoff Cameron’s pinpoint ball over about 40 yards. Cameron was Jones’ replacement, and a bit of an unconventional one. He has played centrally in midfield before, but that was back in his Houston Dynamo days. He was a right back for Stoke City this year. Furthermore … well, just keep reading …

Cameron just booked his spot for Brazil: Assuming good health, and assuming the United States keeps on keeping on, Geoff Cameron will be in the 23 when Klinsmann fills out the roster next May. Are you kidding me? A guy who be effective at three positions: center back, right back and holding mid? (And he could probably play right mid, as well.) Yes. You take that man to a World Cup.

Jozy Altidore makes more money every time he steps on the field now: Cameron was quite good Tuesday. Michael Bradley was Michael Bradley, the brains of the team, always a willing outlet, always wise with the ball. But my Man of the Match was Jozy Altidore.

What a complete game, technical in his touches, diligent in chasing and harassing and clever in his positioning. Altidore has scored in three consecutive matches now – and how far, far, far away does that long goalless drought with the national team seem now? If his huge season at AZ wasn’t enough to draw interest from bigger clubs (and it was) then his summer with the national team will put the cherry on this transfer sundae.

  1. wfjackson3 - Jun 12, 2013 at 12:43 AM

    I learned that every time I start thinking Bradley isn’t contributing, he comes out and makes me look like a clown. I still wish he wouldn’t play so passively for stretches and he can occasionally lose defensive focus, but when he is on, it really shows.

    • joeyt360 - Jun 12, 2013 at 6:23 PM

      Well, you remember the “old Bradley”, the one that ran his ass off for 90+ mins. This Bradley, the one that can pick his spots, is actually better, I think.

  2. wfjackson3 - Jun 12, 2013 at 12:45 AM

    As for Altidore, I am starting to think a season with Ajax or PSV might be good for him. They consistently put out great attackers and it would give him a chance to work in some European competitions without as large a risk of losing a starting spot if he hits a tough patch. Whatever he does, he can’t go somewhere and ride the bench next year.

  3. krazymunky - Jun 12, 2013 at 12:55 AM

    We also learned that…Seattle has an amazing crowd for USMNT games.

  4. drewvt6 - Jun 12, 2013 at 1:01 AM

    Remember that rockin crowd at rfk in like 2001? It changed the face of how US soccer was supported. I think this game is another milestone game. It’s at an all new level now. Thank you Seattle!

  5. midtec2005 - Jun 12, 2013 at 1:15 AM

    It was a great crowd, but I’m not sure it was as raucous as that crowd in Columbus last year, but certainly bigger!

    I can certainly see Jozy as MOTM, he has been playing so much better since that goal against Germany. But for me it’s Cameron all day. The thing about Cameron is that he can cover so much ground. I think the guy is all legs, it looks like he can’t win the ball but somehow his leg is just always there. If Jones can’t go against Honduras and Cameron does this again, I think it’d be fair to debate who the starter is.

    • Steve Davis - Jun 12, 2013 at 1:21 AM

      Would have been mine, too … but my notes on his first 20-30 minutes said “He HAS to clean up that passing!”

      • midtec2005 - Jun 12, 2013 at 1:34 AM

        True, he started with some head scratchers. Thankfully he did clean it up! I think Mark Hughes just found his new Holding midfielder.

      • mvktr2 - Jun 12, 2013 at 2:11 AM

        Midtec I hope mark hughes just found his starting midfielder. Cameron belongs there or at CB and is only a stopgap on the international or top euro level at RB/RM.

  6. mvktr2 - Jun 12, 2013 at 2:18 AM

    I think Beasley had his best game since landing back in the fold, allowing just one good cross while providing much going forward, although his defensive effort in Azteca may disagree.

    Cameron, Altidore, or Bradley could all have good arguments for man of the match. I’m good with any of the three especially Cam/Altidore.

    Can and will Altidore keep this up? Has the light finally permanently come on as to what he needs to do at the international level to be successful? His knock for half a decade or so has been he’s gets lazy. It was much of the source of Jurgen’s exclusion and prior managers have mentioned, while fans paying attention could also see it. So is this the new, permanent Jozy Altidore? He’s consistently hustling like I’ve never seen and his teammates (Dempsey and Bradley especially) see it. I really hope not just for USMNT or AZ that he’s finally come around. I hope this is the permanent Jozy for another decade for Jozy’s sake. He could achieve wonderful things, eclipsing Brian McBride in europe and beyond.

    • boscoesworld - Jun 12, 2013 at 9:52 AM

      I believe part of the problem was the stagnant offensive players surrounding Jozy as much as he himself. Once the other fellows started showing some creativity in getting him the ball he has flourished as have the other players. It’s as though JK turned on a switch and said “goooo” Nice to see all around.

    • midtec2005 - Jun 12, 2013 at 11:10 AM

      I think his growing relationship with Dempsey is helping a lot too. They are starting to play off of each other well.

  7. jucam1 - Jun 12, 2013 at 5:02 AM

    I learned that its easy to look like you’re good when you play against Panama at home….. I guess you play who you have to, but Jamaica and Panama victories and padding yourself in the back for them is why the US isn’t getting any closer to being a real competitor to win the Cup… Same with Mexico

    • boscoesworld - Jun 12, 2013 at 9:54 AM

      This is a rapidly improving team and we don’t know how good they will be in a year with ALL of their best players in camp. It’s a luxury to be experimenting with lineups during qualifying.

  8. thememyselfandiguy - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:24 AM

    jucam1 | Jun 12, 2013, 5:02 ‘ EDT
    I guess you play who you have to, but Jamaica and Panama victories and padding yourself in the back for them is why the US isn’t getting any closer to being a real competitor to win the Cup.
    ———-
    no, thats not the reason. the reason is that in the usa the education to play soccer is poor. very poor. no infrastructur. thats why the us dont get the trophy the next 53 years. and btw, this is the only reason.

    • joeyt360 - Jun 12, 2013 at 6:35 PM

      But 53.5 years from now, we will surely win.

  9. mfmaxpower - Jun 12, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    I only wonder with Cameron what happens if he ends up not being used by the new Stoke City manager? He’s clearly not a right back, so what if he isn’t given much time this coming season? Does he still make the trip to Brazil?

    My guess would be yes but it’s still something to think and maybe worry about.

    And then what happens if Altidore is transferred to a bigger club where he doesn’t have a great season? That’s an even bigger worry. We need an inform striker going into Brazil, and preferably an inform Jozy.

    • midtec2005 - Jun 12, 2013 at 11:13 AM

      I’ve (unfortunately) watched Stoke play recently, since Cameron joined them. I have to say, I don’t see how Cameron and Brek Shea don’t start on that team with it’s current squad. If Hughes is fair he should play, and he had a pretty good experience the last time he had an American player (Dempsey).

      • mvktr2 - Jun 12, 2013 at 1:55 PM

        I tend to fully agree midtec, no way an in-form Shea doesn’t lock down the LM spot unless they bring in someone else, Brek turns out to be a knucklehead, or the manager just doesn’t like him for some reason. With Cameron it’s about position. He’s a DM/CB at the EPL/international level, not a RB/RM which he’d be fine at in the championship or MLS. The problem with this for Cameron/Stoke is they have a pretty solid CB pairing already.

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