USMNT earn 3-0 win in first match under Gregg Berhalter

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GLENDALE, ARIZONA - JANUARY 27: Christian Ramirez #21 of United States is congratulated by Paul Arriola #14 and Jonathan Lewis #18 of United States after scoring a goal against the Panama during the second half of the international friendly at State Farm Stadium on January 27, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. USA defeated Panama 3-0. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Glendale, Arizona (January 27, 2019) — The Gregg Berhalter era has officially begun.

After over a year of speculation to who would be the next head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, Berhalter was hired by U.S. Soccer on December 2. Immediately, Berhalter got to work, scouting players, taking trips over to Europe to meet with foreign-based players and draft a game plan.

USMNT earn 3-0 win in first match under Gregg Berhalter

Even though Berhalter didn’t have his European players, he called in a hefty squad of 23 players for January camp. The first match of the Berhalter era put fellow CONCACAF group, Panama, in the cards.

The United States started Sunday night’s match slow.

However, the pace picked up toward the end of the first half. In his debut, Djordje Mihailovic scored his first international goal in the 40th minute. Mihailovic’s goal was the first USMNT goal under Berhalter.

Meanwhile, in the second half, Walker Zimmerman found an opening in the box, putting his header past Eddie Roberts. However, it was Nick Lima that did all the work, perfectly-timing a sliding tackle to gain the ball back. Zimmerman was there to put the ball away.

The final goal of the match came from Christian Ramirez in the 89th minute. Ramirez scored only five minutes after entering the match. Ramirez joined the group in the 85th minute, replacing forward Gyasi Zardes.

Panama — who participated in the FIFA World Cup last summer — didn’t put up much of a fight. Instead, the fellow CONCACAF team took 10 shots, with four registering on-goal. Zack Steffen, who started the match for the United States, made a stretching save against Edson Samms.

Steffen featured for 74 minutes, before Sean Johnson entered the match.

Three Takeaways

  1. Christian Ramirez could be a starter: It’s hard to tell who an exact starting lineup is going to be. The USMNT were missing a lot of key players who are settled in Europe. However, Ramirez is a goal-scoring machine for his club, Los Angeles FC, and scored 21 goals in 50 appearances for Minnesota United FC. Ramirez can give Bobby Wood, Zardes and Timothy Weah for a starting spot up top.
  2. Michael Bradley still has a lot to give: The United States could have had four goals — all because of Michael Bradley. Bradley found Cristian Roldan early in the first half, but Roldan failed to see Corey Baird. However, Bradley’s play showed that he still has a lot to give. Many want to blame him for the Trinidad and Tobago loss, but Bradley is a fantastic veteran leader. He won’t be off Berhalter’s radar anytime soon.
  3. Corey Baird, Nick Lima were MVPs: There’s a chance that Corey Baird covered every square inch of the pitch — no rhyme intended. Baird had a few good looks inside the box and could’ve scored if Roldan spotted him in time. Meanwhile, Nick Lima’s sliding tackle to set up Zimmerman’s goal should be on every single highlight reel on ESPN tomorrow. It truly was a thing of beauty — and should be in a defender’s handbook.

What’s Next?

Another test awaits the young group of the USMNT.

Costa Rica placed second in World Cup qualifying almost two years ago. In Russia, the Costa Ricans failed to live up to the Cinderella story they produced in 2014. However, with a new head coach as well — Gustavo Matosas — Costa Rica has a lot of redemption to gain.

This could very-well be a preview of what the USMNT could face in this summer’s Gold Cup. Costa Rica is another team experimenting with young players.

The match will be held on Feb. 2 at 3:30 p.m. ET. at Avaya Stadium in San Jose. Tickets are still available.

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