The United States Men’s National Team came to Kansas City with their spot in the next round of the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup already assured. The only question that remained was whether they could go undefeated in group play and win Group D or if they would advance as the second place team.
With a spot in the knockout round already secured, head coach Gregg Berhalter opted to play it safe and rest his regular XI, making wholesale changes to the starting lineup. If the second choice team was looking to make an impression and earn more minutes later in the tournament, they left plenty to be desired.
The first twenty minutes was filled with sloppy soccer and a lackluster effort by both sides. It wasn’t until the 20th minute when the USMNT got their first legitimate attacking chance of the match. Cristian Roldan found Jozy Altidore in the box with a beautiful cut back pass, but all Jozy could muster was a soft shot directly at Panama keeper Jose Calderon.
The game’s slow pace continued throughout the first half, with very few chances coming for either side. Panama’s best chance came in the 38th minute, when Jose Fajardo muscled US centerback Omar Gonzalez off the ball to give him an open shot on goal from distance, but he put the ball wide right off target, never truly threatening Sean Johnson in goal.
The second half didn’t begin much better. It took nearly 15 minutes for the US to have any sort of attacking spark. A flurry of chances around the 60th minute gave American fans a bit of hope, but Panama’s back line remained calm and was able to clear the ball every time the US sent in a cross.
The first real cheers of the game came in the 65th minute when Christian Pulisic checked in for Jonathan Lewis, and his mere presence seemed to change the tide of the game.
Moments after Pulisic stepped on the field, Djordje Mihailovic sent in a corner kick redirected toward goal by Matt Miazga. Panama attempted to clear the ball, but a misplayed header led straight to a Jozy Altidore overhead kick, finally putting the USMNT ahead.
¡¡GOOOOOOOOOOLLLL DEL TEAMMM USAAAA!! ALTIDORE DE CHILENA, DE ESPALDA AL ARCO, ABRE EL MARCADOR CON UN GOLAZO— Univision Deportes (@UnivisionSports) June 27, 2019
⚽ @fepafut 0-1 @USMNT
Disfruta EN VIVO de #TuCopaOro https://t.co/U4Jp05huIa pic.twitter.com/wSuKveo5cn
After the goal the game returned to its previous slow pace, with neither team pressing too much. Panama tried their best to attack in the last 10 minutes of the match to force an equalizer, but they were unable to create any real threat in the final third, leaving the USMNT with the 1-0 victory.
Despite an uninspired performance in Kansas City, Gregg Berhalter’s side went undefeated in group play, winning Group D with a perfect nine points and a +11 goal differential, scoring 11 goals and not conceding a single time.
The USMNT next head to Philadelphia to play Curacao in the quarterfinals on Sunday, June 30, at 7:30 p.m. CT.