The United States men's national team came from behind to beat Panama on Monday 6-2 in an international friendly with the young, promising group coming alive in the final third. Just days after the 0-0 draw with Wales, Gregg Berhalter's team was much improved in attack with three goals in the span of eight first-half minutes.
Gio Reyna got his debut goal, while Nicholas Gioacchini got two in a quality display, though the striker missed out on a hat trick after failing to convert a penalty in the second half. Sebastian Soto, who has revived his young career in the Dutch second division, also scored on his debut, while Sebastian Lletget scored late.
Here's Reyna's goal:
Panama took the surprise, early lead just eight minutes in through Jose Fajardo, but the U.S. equalized 10 minutes later before taking control of the match as the midfield trio of Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah led the way.
Here are three takeaways from the match:
Playing with a striker makes a difference
After everybody suffered through the first hour of that Wales match without a striker, it was refreshing to see the position of a true No. 9 being used in this one. It's easy to point at the six goals and say it is because the U.S. had a player there, but it is much more than that. Both Nicholas Gioacchini and Sebastian Soto are players who are trained to live in the box and hunt for chances chances whenever they come along. And they both found them. They were reference points in attack, positioned themselves well and greatly boosted their stocks with the national team here.
While Josh Sargent and even Gyasi Zardes are both firmly ahead of them, this at least puts them in contention for significant minutes in important matches moving forward.
The defense still has plenty of issues
Everyone knows the best combination of a center back pairing on paper for this team is John Brooks and either Aaron Long (meh) or Chris Richards. I'd love to see Brooks and Richards actually play together to see how they do. Instead, we got another start with Matt Miazga, who struggled once again. His awareness in defense, and the ability to read a ball into the box are concerning. He was mostly at fault for the opener and once again looked average at best overall. While there were some issues in closing down from other players, the glaring takeaways in the back is that there needs to be some cohesion built...and fast.
That midfield trio is the future of this team
Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams are penned in as starters for important matches, and Yunus Musah is playing his way into that conversation. He's been sharp on the ball, his pace is a game-changer, and he's responded well to the challenge. He became the first American player to start two matches before the age of 18.
Musah is allowed to flow forward, Adams mainly stays a bit further back and McKennie is all over the field. Their roles are defined, they've shown some really solid chemistry so far, and this looks like the building block of this team moving forward.
Of course, that's if Musah stays committedd to the U.S. As of now, he hasn't decided.
Scoreboard: USA 6-2 Panama
- ⚽Panama: Jose Fajardo (8')
- ⚽USA: Gio Reyna (18')
- ⚽USA: Nicholas Gioacchini (22')
- ⚽USA: Nicholas Gioacchini (26')
- ⚽Panama: Jose Fajardo (79')
- ⚽USA: Sebastian Soto (83')
- ⚽USA: Sebastian Lletget (87')
- ⚽USA: Sebastian Soto (90'+1)