MICHAEL ADUBATO - Tuesday, November 17, 2020
The United States had a glut of goals while showing they are still a work in progress as they came away with the win over Panama in Austria on Monday night.
After a performance against Wales last week that bore no goals, the USA was on fire last night against CONCACAF rivals Panama in Austria as they struck six times, including a couple of braces by debutant Sebastian Soto and Nicholas Gioacchini, who had only played 11 minutes for the USA and that was in Swansea.
The team got off to a half decent start and Gioacchini almost scored early on from the center of the box just went wide of the near post. It was the Panamanians who drew first blood however after just eight minutes when Josť Fajardo Nelson was allowed a free header in the box that was delivered from Alejandro Yearwood from wide left.
This was perhaps a wake-up call for Greg Berhalter's European based crew because ten minutes later the score was level. Yunus Musah was tripped up just inside the D and it was the Borussia Dortmund's 18-year-old Giovanni Reyna who set the ball down and shot it just past the wall and also the Panamanian keeper, Orlando Mosquera, who did get hands to it.
The USA is a much better team across the board; even this team of youngsters and the dominance began to show with that goal and the rest of the half.
The next goal, in the 22nd minute, was a poacher's goal as Ulysses Llanez's shot from 12 yards out was knocked away by Mosquera. The fox-in-the-box Gioacchini however, who has scored three goals for his French Ligue 2 team Caen, was in the right place at the right time and scored his first for the USA with relative ease.
The Kansas City native's second of the night came just a few minutes later. Weston McKennie had the ball almost on the touch line to the left of Los Canaleros goal and played it across the face of it, to Anderlecht's Matt Miazga that the Jersey boy squared to Gioacchini who headed it home from close range.
For the rest of the half the Americans were all over their opponents, moving the ball around so quickly that the Panama boys looked perplexed and didn't risk marking too tightly. Tackles did fly in and Reyna had another dead ball opportunity but this time he was way off target. The half time whistle came and the USA went into the locker room with a good lead, having come from behind.
After the restart, the team made up of several MLS players started off as if on a mission while the Americans looked a shadow of the team that they were in the first half. The Central Americans were doing everything right but finding the back of the net. That did change however but not until after Oscar Linton handled the ball in the box, giving the USA a penalty. The American Caen man was handed the ball to complete his hat trick but his half-hearted attempt was easily saved.
Instead of the game being put to bed, Fajardo scored two goals of his own he was played into the center of the box and hit it with his left foot past Zack Steffen and into the corner of the net. It was game on again.
In the 83rd minute however, Soto, who had just come on a half dozen minutes ago was picked out by the cross from another sub, PSV's Richard Ledezma and the man who plays his club soccer for Telstar in the Netherlands second division nodded it home.
The only player who had to cross an ocean to get to the game, Sebastian Lletget, also came off the bench 11 minutes earlier and added a goal to the two that he already had for the national team. This one was another cross into the box that was headed past the obviously frustrated keeper. Boavista's Reggie Cannon provided the assist.
With just four minutes between the two goals, the sixth and final came, you guessed it, four minutes later. This time it was McKennie who whipped his curler into the box and saw Soto use his head to squeeze it into the tight space between the far post and Mosquera.
The victory was an impressive one against a team that the USA really should have had no problem beating, but the important thing over these past two games was to give Berhalter to look at his options all over the field. He is obviously going to have selection headaches, especially with his riches of midfielders.
As the coaching staff and Lleget head back across the Atlantic and the young Nats head back to their European club teams, we now have to play the waiting game to see when the USA will next get on the field.