United States follow Thursday’s 0-0 with Wales with a second friendly of this international break against fellow CONCACAF side Panama at the Wiener Neustadter Stadion in Austria on Monday (2.45pm ET, live on FS1, Unimas and TUDN).
How will this game pan out? Read on for our preview, picks and USA vs Panama predictions.
USMNT dominated the midfield zone against an understrength Wales team, with Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie impressing, and caused problems for their hosts with an effective high press, particularly during the first half.
The problem was that they struggled to convert their dominance of the ball into attempts on goal. In fact, they had just one effort on target throughout the 90 minutes. Neither side really mustered must inside the final third and the rhythm of the match was lost during the flurry of substitutions during the last half hour or so.
Gregg Berhalter’s decision to start without a recognized striker, with Sebastian Lletget employed in a kind of false nine role in the centre of the attack, played against the attributes of the wide forwards and arriving support and meant that they struggled to work the ball into dangerous positions inside the final third.
Giovanni Reyna, son of former US international Claudio Reyna, was one of those most affected on what was his international debut just a day before his 18th birthday. His space was squashed by Lletget’s play style and he struggled to make an impact. Fellow debutant Konrad de la Fuente, 19, part of Barcelona’s second team looked at little out of his depth on the other side of the forward line.
There were some promising displays from others. The midfield three functioned well, with Adams and McKennie joined by Yunus Musah, another of the three starting debutants and of six overall. The 17-year-old did his job in a solid display. Sergino Dest, now of Barcelona, again impressed at right-back, a position that now looks likely to be his for some time.
The overall impression of the performance had a familiar conclusion: Team USA played some nice football, controlled possession but found it difficult to create an acceptable volume of chances. It was a similar story to many of the team’s matches against more competitive opposition under Berhalter. They failed to score in three of their four matches against Canada and Mexico last year, including in their loss to the latter team in the Gold Cup final.
“We are still learning principles, how to take advantage of other teams’ weaknesses, and we didn’t do that enough,” Berhalter admitted afterwards. “But if you look at how we made Wales play at home, that’s really impressive.”
Doubly so given how young this US squad is, with an average age of just under 22 years old. There are still four more players in the group hoping to make their senior national team debuts on Monday.
Opponents Panama will undoubtedly put out an older and more experienced starting XI. About half of their squad is made up of established names with plentiful national team appearances behind them, including centenarians Anibal Godoy, of Nashville in the MLS, and Armando Cooper. To them are added three potential debutants and a further 10 players who came into this international break with eight or less caps to their credit.
The fixture will be Panama’s fourth under the stewardship of Tomas Christiansen, who took charge in July after Americo Gallego was relieved of his duties. The former Leeds coach got off to a good start with a pair of 1-0 friendly victories over Costa Rica last month and his side then fell to a narrow 0-1 defeat against Japan on Friday.
Panama should, in theory, be easier opponents than Wales. USMNT have won each of the last three matches between the sides, while it is necessary to go back to 2011 to find the last time Panama defeated them inside 90 minutes. They did win on penalties when they met in the 2015 Gold Cup.
The most recent US triumph was a 1-0 win in the group stage of last year’s Gold Cup, and we may get a similar outcome on Monday. Panama have been involved in a lot of low-scoring matches recently, with two or less goals in each of their last five internationals, and with the USMNT still pretty shot-shy despite the talent in the squad, there is little reason to think that trend will be bucked in this encounter. So for our preview’s United States vs Panama predictions, this is the advised betting tip: