The United States concluded Group A, CONCACAF Gold Cup play with a 1-1 draw against Panama. The U.S. finishes group play undefeated, despite three lackluster performances.
The USMNT once again had an unimpressive opening 20 minutes. While the U.S. performed worse in the beginning of the matches against Honduras and Haiti, the team still did not play well in the beginning of this match.
Panama had the better of the early play, and seemingly had a goal in the 9th minute. A beautiful free kick by Panama's Eric Davis was tapped into the net by Luis Tejada, only for the referee to correctly disallow the goal for offside.
In the 16th minute, John Anthony Brooks received a yellow card, his second of the group stage, ruling him out of the U.S.' quarterfinal match on Saturday. Two minutes later, Michael Bradley struck a great shot from distance forcing Jaime Penedo to make a save.
Panama had a golden opportunity in the 21st minute when a corner deflected off of Fabian Johnson's chest, forcing Brad Guzan to make a diving stop. Guzan tipped the ball away from goal, but it went right to a Panamanian player who forced Guzan to fully extend to make another great save. After 25 minutes, Panama had clearly had the better of the play and the U.S. looked vulnerable.
The USMNT finally conceded in the 33rd minute. Luis Tejada turned away from Ventura Alvarado in the eighteen and hit a driven cross to a streaking Blas Perez who tapped the ball into the goal. The goal should have been disallowed, as Tejada was offside on the pass that played him into the box.
The U.S. had arguably its best chance of the first half in the 40th minute, when Alejandro Bedoya was on a breakaway and was fouled just outside the box. Despite the clear foul, that could have been a red card for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO), the referee didn't even award the U.S. a free kick.
To cap off his disappointing first half, Timmy Chandler was yellow carded just before half time as the match was becoming increasingly physical. In the last major event of the first half, Anibal Godoy was booked for elbowing Gyasi Zardes in the face.
Jurgen Klinsmann clearly was not pleased by the team's play in the first half and to begin the second half he brought on DeAndre Yedlin for Alfredo Morales and Clint Dempsey, for an invisible Chris Wondolowski. Ventura Alvarado continued the trend of U.S. defenders getting booked, with his 47th minute yellow card.
The U.S. finally had an offensive breakthrough in the 54th minute when Alejandro Bedoya, who had been unimpressive up to that point, played a beautiful driven cross to Michael Bradley who put it in the back of the net.
In the 71st minute, Aron Johannsson was subbed on for Alejandro Bedoya who despite having an assist was still clearly recovering from an injury. Brad Guzan made another brilliant save, in the 75th minute as he dived to his left to barely tip a Miguel Camargo shot wide of the post. Panama had one last chance in the 93rd minute, but Guzan easily saved Armando Cooper's attempt.
Its always easy to blame the coach when a team doesn't win, but I don't have an issue with the result. However, I disagree with many of Jurgen Klinsmann's personnel decisions.
John Anthony Brooks will miss the quarterfinals because he received his second yellow card of the group stage. Brooks shouldn't have been playing in this game. The match was meaningless and Klinsmann knew Brooks was in danger of missing the quarterfinals, yet still started him.
I also don't understand why Michael Bradley and Alejandro Bedoya were risked in this match. Yes, they combined for the only U.S. goal, but Bedoya clearly was struggling and was unsurprisingly subbed off in the 71st minute.
Michael Bradley has played every minute of the USMNT's 2015 matches and deserved a rest. While the quarterfinals aren't till Saturday, there was no reason to risk Bradley against a physical Panamanian side.
Mexican Center Referee Robert Garcia and his officiating crew had an abysmal match. Their glaring mistakes began in the 33rd minute when Panama scored. Luis Tejada, who assisted on the goal, was clearly offside on the pass that lead him into the USMNT's eighteen. The assistant referee did not flag for offside and in such a high level tournament important calls like that should not be missed.
Another call was missed when Alejandro Bedoya was clearly fouled just outside the box, as he was streaking on a breakaway. Not only should it have been a foul, it also should have been a red card. There were no Panamanian players between Bedoya and goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, so the Panamanian defender who fouled Bedoya should have been ejected.
Throughout the match, Garcia awarded Panama many free kicks when the Panamanians dove and clearly embellished minor contact. By the same token Garcia didn't award the U.S. several free kicks in instances where USMNT players were clearly fouled.
Yes it wasn't pretty, but the U.S. managed to go undefeated and win Group A. The team will clearly need to play better if it hopes to win the 2015 Gold Cup. The team has yet to peak and is seemingly saving its best for the knockout rounds. The USMNT needs to possess the ball better and be more dynamic in the attacking third.
Costa Rica and Mexico, the teams considered to be the main threats to U.S. title hopes, also have yet to play as well as they can. Mexico will likely finish group play with seven points, but looked very vulnerable in its draw against Guatemala. Costa Rica looked especially weak, tying Jamaica and El Salvador.
Based off of how these three favorites have played, it is clear that any team could still win the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.