USMNT Top Group D in Victory over Panama

USMNT
KANSAS CITY-Jozy Altidore and the USMNT celebrate the match winning goal in the 66th minute. MANDATORY CREDIT: Henry Hauck Jr.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – With both teams already having qualified for the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup, Wednesday night offered a drab affair in Children’s Mercy Park between the USMNT and Panama. With the USMNT needing just a draw to top the group, the host nation managed to squeak out a 1-0 victory thanks to a second-half goal from Jozy Altidore.

USMNT Top Group D in Victory over Panama

The first half saw little action, with Panama defending with 10 men behind the ball for much of the half before trying to strike on the quick counter-attack with Jose Fajardo. The Panamanian had a couple of efforts from the edge of the box but failed to truly threaten Sean Johnson’s goal. Down the other end, Altidore wasted a pair of good chances to send the pair of teams into halftime at a deadlock.

It wasn’t until the 66th minute when the U.S. finally made the breakthrough. Just moments after Altidore was limping around the field, the veteran striker was in the right time at the right place to bicycle kick a loose ball into the back of the net in front of the American Outlaws.

Despite Christian Pulisic and Gyasi Zardes both making second-half appearances, neither team provided much more to cheer about as the game ended 1-0.

Finishing top of the group, the USMNT will face Curaçao on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET, while group D runners-up Panama take on Jamaica at 5:30 p.m. ET.

Names out of a hat

You’d be easily forgiven for thinking Gregg Berhalter and Julio Dely pulled their starting lineups out a hat while blindfolded ahead of Wednesday’s game. Panama made nine changes from their starting 11 against Guyana, while the U.S. made a full 11 changes following Saturday’s win over Trinidad & Tobago.

The following 90 minutes resulted in a sloppy affair that disappointed a crowd looking to see America’s best. The pair of teams combined for 29 fouls — with the U.S. contributing 17 of those — while misplaced forward passes and wasted runs ruled most of the game.

It’s understandable that both teams are looking to rest players ahead of the quarterfinals, but giving near to none of your starting 11 game time ahead of a vital stage of the tournament may not be wise.

Smoothing over the cracks

Earning the starting nod, Jozy Altidore elicited nothing but groans of frustration from the Kansas City crowd whenever he touched the ball in the first half on Wednesday night. While doing a half-decent job holding up the ball at times, Altidore scuffed the US’s only two good chances in the first half; a dragged shot across the face of goal and a mistimed shot from 8-yards-out right into the chest of Panama goalkeeper Jose Calderon.

But strikers are remembered for their goals, and at the end of the day the Toronto striker scored a bicycle kick to put the U.S. ahead, and that’s all that people will remember about his performance from this game.

Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guyana

With both countries fates already sealed in the bottom half of Group D, Trinidad & Tobago played to a tight 1-1 consolation tie in the opener at Children’s Mercy Park.

In a game that saw little shots on target, Neil Danns opened the scoring for Guyana in the 54th minute with a laser into the top corner that ended up being Guyana’s only shot on target of the game.

Trinidad & Tobago tied it up with just 10 minutes remaining when Kevin Molino took the ball down between the Guyana defensive lines before rounding goalkeeper Quillan Roberts and slotting home into an empty net.

The result means both teams finish the tournament with 1 point, with Guyana taking 3rd in Group D with a -6 goal difference compared to Trinidad & Tobago’s -8.

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