The United States finishes its January camp with a much more familiar foe and one that shocked the United States in last year's Gold Cup. However, the win in the semi-final takes any revenge out of a match in desperate need of a plot. Hopefully, the jitters that appeared to hamper some of the debutantes for the United States will have been lost by this game. Even more hopeful, the United States comes out showing some offensive punch, that so far, no matter who plays, has lacked in Klinsmanns tenure. I don't mind solid defense and possession, but the little Eric Wynalda in me screams for goals (perhaps not with the same disregard for defense as we displayed in our exciting open win versus Slovenia.)
Consider this your open thread for the game. I'll try to chime in by stone-age phone when possible in between conversations about my kilt, Robert Burns, and why I wear the royal colors of the House of Stuart which should be enough clues as to my whereabouts and appearance in St. Louis tonight. Or follow along with us on twitter.
(Preview after the jump)
Questions for the United States
Does the United States change its formation or just places?
Some of the players were out of their comfort zones for the Venezuela games. Graham Zusi is not a natural winger (Apologies to Jurgen Klinsmann, apparently Brek Shea instigated the "hide Graham Zusi on the left" switch), and Benny Feilhaber expressed a lack of comfort playing so advanced with his back to goal. In Feilhaber's favor, Panama won't likely sit as deep as Venezuela did and give the defensive midfielders so much room. If the United States plays two forwards, they can drop the CAM deeper and let him run at defenders and look for passes. This also would mean playing Jermaine Jones as a lone holding midfielder in a midfield diamond, but that wouldn't hurt as they didn't need both Jones and Jeff Larentowicz holding last game. Until further notice, expect the 4-2-3-1 every game.
One thing is certain: someone will be wearing a different number and anyone not there for the starting lineups will be confused.
Who will start at striker?
The odds are that Chris Wondolowski starts, given the performances of the last game and Klinsmann's reactions to it. This doesn't mean Teal Bunbury and CJ Sapong aren't on the field at any point, just that they will be second half subs. If they change formation and play with two men up front, expect Bunbury and Wondolowski to start and CJ to come on in the second half.
Will Geoff Cameron and Michael Parkhurst get tested?
They looked great against Venezuela, but were not frequently tested. We showered praise on Parkhurst for clearing crosses with no real target and Cameron for passing well out of the back with no one near him. It would be promising if they don't get tested, because that means we're playing well in midfield. However, I would hope they get a couple of chances to prove their worth. Same goes for the keeper, most likely Sean Johnson, if Klinsmann is trying to get a look at all the youngsters.
As was the case with Venezuela, this is an up and coming team that is fielding a B-team against us. Another way of putting it, he coaching should be solid even if the play on the field is underwhelming. Julio Dely Valdés has been superb since taking over his national team, both in preparation and results. When I previewed Venezuela, I stated how much easier it was to move up in CONCACAF. This is the type of team that could go from tenth best to a World Cup qualifier in CONCACAF. However, that is a description that could be given to it's entire qualification group for the third round given Canada's underachievement, Honduras's recent run to the World Cup, and Cuba's always enigmatic qualities (They were the sixth seed in CONCACAF's draw?). Panama, based on form of late, should be able to advance to the hexagonal, but
In their defeat of the United States last summer, they matched the United States formation and took apart a sadly disorganized back four. The United States was killed on direct passes and sloppy defending, but I would put Cameron and Parkhurst ahead of 2011 Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson on the depth chart.
They tended, like the United States under Bradley, to defend in banks of fours and frustrate the United States attack. Don't be surprised if the United States again holds a great deal of possession and doesn't near goal. A few MLS players will be on the field, so we get a look at some of FC Dallas's off-season acquisitions in Blas Perez and . Carlos Rodriguez as well as Philadelphia's Gabriel Gomez. (Those watching on ESPN3.com, expect "This guy plays in MLS" to be a constant thread throughout the night, despite the two former players just being signed.)
The United States is 8-1-1 against Panama, with one win and one draw in games played in Panama. That includes six Gold Cup matches (two quarterfinals('07, '09), one semifinal('11), and one final('05)) and four qualifiers (Eddie Johnson scored a hat trick against them as a sub.)