Every World Cup Qualifier is an important match where both the players and the fans of said National Teams will fight and die on the pitch for those 90 minutes that many will hope points will be earned and either shared or taken fully. Heading down to Central America for the third time to face a Panama side that is hungry for a win and looking to move up the Octagon table, Panama was ready to defend their home turf at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
Somehow the US Men’s National Team forget to check their pulses inside the locker room as they started flat and ended flat allowing Panama to convert a goal which they helped them get as the USA fell to a one goal to nil scoreline in Panama City. Anibal Godoy converted the goal with a little help from Gyasi Zatdes as the corner was delivered along the near side. While Godoy did try to redirect it with his head, it would be Zardes that blocked Matt Turner’s site and deflected it in off his right shoulder.
Other than that there wasn’t anything good the USA did in this match to show that they were prepared tactically or emotionally to battle for those precious 90 minutes, even though Berhalter made seven changes to his starting eleven, and sat some of those starters down, he quickly made two substitutions at the start of the second half bringing in Tyler Adams & Brendan Aaronson to shake things up. Those subs did work in the first 10 minutes of the match until the goal was scored off the corner and against the run of play.
Once again Head Coach Gregg Berhalter continues to build from the back and too much tinkering with the starting lineup is continuing to show that he is forcing down their throats his tactics and trying to look like a genius when he is outsmarting himself. Look no further than the road win at Honduras in the final match of the September Qualifying window. He made many mistakes in the opening half and got scored on, which forced him to make those halftime substitutes and it worked to get the victory in the closing half.
This is the problem you have with Berhalter as he continues to think as a club coach and not as a Nationa Team head coach. You don’t have a six to seven month season to tinker and play guesswork to see how things can change, you only have a week and a half, to a full two weeks for a camp and qualifying matches to get your game plan thru handwork so you can get that necessary victory. one wrong move or wrong decision and you find yourself getting the fingers of blame sharpened and pointed in your direction.
While there were those who thought the USA was going to get the full three points down in Panama, the hope was to get a draw so that a point was going to be enough as the final match in this window will be at home in Columbus against Costa Rica, but now that match is shinning much brighter and the desperation to have at least six points in these two home qualifiers is now a must-win game. Sure the USA is currently in second place with eight points in the Octagonal, but that won’t mean a damn thing unless they get a win at home on Wednesday night.
This isn’t about who plays in MLS or who plays in Europe, this is about the American player being led by an American coach who is outsmarting himself, and not doing the right things to get these players prepared tactically and emotionally. While there are still nine matches remaining in this final round of qualifying, it’s better to get this loss out of the way now and continue to move forward, because we will never know when the real pressure will come from the board of US Soccer & how hot Berhalter’s seat is when we get to the halfway point next month.