Zusi Tallies First Career Goal in Second Start
U.S. Holds on for Win After Red Card to Cameron in the 52nd minute
USA Opens Year with Back-to-Back Shutouts for First Time Since 1998
USA Looks Ahead to Feb. 29 Match Against Four-Time World Cup Champion Italy, Live on ESPN2 and ESPN3
PANAMA CITY, Panama (Jan. 25, 2012) – U.S. midfielder Graham Zusi scored his first career goal in only his second appearance to give the U.S. an early lead, allowing the U.S. Men’s National Team to overcome a second-half red card and record a 1-0 victory against Panama at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, Panama.
The victory marks the first time the U.S. has opened the year with back-to-back shutout victories since 1998. The U.S. defeated Venezuela by the same 1-0 score on Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. In 1998, the U.S. opened the year with a 1-0 win against Sweden on Jan. 24 and a 3-0 victory on Feb. 1 against Cuba.
The U.S. improved to 8-1-2 against Panama and 2-0-1 on Panamanian soil. The previous 10 meetings between the two countries had been in either the CONCACAF Gold Cup or FIFA World Cup qualifying.
The victory is also the team’s third straight dating back to last year’s 3-2 win against Slovenia on Nov. 15, 2011, in Ljubljana. U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann improves to 4-4-1 since he took over the U.S. MNT in July of 2011.
Next up for the U.S. is a Feb. 29 match against four-time World Cup champion Italy at Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa. Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. local (2:30 p.m. ET), and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and ESPN3. Fans can follow the game live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and Twitter @ussoccer.
“I think we saw a very close game, a very tight game which we luckily won because Panama didn’t finish off the chances that they had,” said Klinsmann. “Our team had a very hard three weeks, and they had tired legs today and you could see that. After the red card, we couldn’t pressure enough anymore to create more chances. Overall, I think it really paid off doing this, not only playing a game in the U.S., but coming down here. A lot of the young players learned their lesson today.”
“Our goal with these two games was very simple,” he continued. “We wanted to introduce the players to those difficult games in different environments, especially away from home outside of their comfort zone. We wanted them to come here and experience this atmosphere and a different way of doing things. I think they did very well with all that.”
The game’s lone goal came in the eighth minute from Zusi, who once again started on the right side of midfield. Left back Zach Loyd opened the sequence with a cross from the left flank, getting the ball to the middle of the box where Teal Bunbury was lurking. Bunbury deflected the ball behind him to Zusi, who then rocketed a shot dead center into the net underneath Panama goalkeeper Luis Mejia’s glove to hand the U.S. a 1-0 lead.
U.S. goalkeeper and Budweiser Man of the Match Nick Rimando earned his sixth career cap and his first since he split time with Sean Johnson during a 1-1 draw Jan. 22, 2011 against Chile. Rimando made several key saves in the first half to keep Panama off the scoreboard in the first 45 minutes.
Rimando came up with a big save to deny Panama’s Gabriel Gomez in the 26th minute. Gomez, who will play for the Philadelphia Union in MLS, split the U.S. defense and received the ball in an onside position with only Rimando to beat and no U.S. defender within 10 yards. Gomez struck his shot low and Rimando dove to his right to get his right glove on the ball. With the ball squirting behind him, Rimando then had to scramble to bat the ball over the end line and concede a corner kick.
Not to be outdone, Mejia made two huge saves for Panama in the 30th minute to keep his side within a goal. U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones, wearing the captain’s armband for the second straight match, had a vicious long-distance shot that Mejia batted up in the air. U.S. forward Chris Wondolowski alertly followed up with a header that was bound for the inside of the near right post, but Mejia reacted quickly to deny the forward’s attempt, keeping the match close.
Panama had the bulk of the offensive scoring chances in the opening half, attacking from a variety of angles either through the middle of the defense or swinging the ball in from the flanks. Rimando had to make multiple key interceptions, on several occasions with his feet.
Similar to last year’s draw against Chile, Johnson got the start in place of Rimando to open the second half and earn his second career cap. Along with the shutout for Bill Hamid against Venezuela, all three U.S. goalkeepers in camp were part of shutout victories.
A pivotal moment of the match came in the 52nd minute when U.S. center back Geoff Cameron, making his third appearance, was issued a red card by referee Francisco Chacon. Panama sent the ball ahead toward forward Blas Perez, and he did not have a strong first touch on the ball as he raced towards goal. Cameron tried to step in front of Perez and separate him from the ball and made contact with the forward at the top of the area. Perez toppled to the ground, and Chacon didn’t hesitate to reach in his back pockets and issue the red card.
Klinsmann was forced to change up his game plan immediately, bringing on defender Jeff Parke for Wondolowski. For the 29-year-old Parke, it was his first cap with the U.S. MNT. Shortly thereafter, Brad Evans and Jeff Larentowicz were brought in for Zusi and Ricardo Clark, respectively, in the 66th minute. From there, the United States improved its possession for several stretches and deliberately slowed the game down.
Panama did find a couple of scoring moments in the final 15 minutes. In the 78th minute, Panama swung the ball in from the right side to Perez, who headed the ball just wide left of the goal frame. Four minutes from time, Panama had a superb scoring opportunity to equalize. Manuel Mosquera had a close shot in the box that was blocked by Parke. On the rebound, Perez had plenty of space to shoot on frame, but he hooked his shot wide left of the net.
-- U.S. Men's National Team Game Report --
Match: USA vs. Panama
Date: Jan. 25, 2012
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Estadio Rommel Fernandez; Panama City, Panama
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Weather: 77 degrees; partly sunny
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
Panama 0 0 0
USA 1 0 1
USA – Graham Zusi (Teal Bunbury) 9th minute
USA:1-Nick Rimando (12-Sean Johnson, 46); 2-A.J. DeLaGarza, 4-Michael Parkhurst, 5-Geoff Cameron, 3-Zach Loyd (14- Heath Pearce, 41); 6-Ricardo Clark (16-Jeff Larentowicz, 67), 8-Jermaine Jones (capt.); 7-Chris Wondolowski (13-Jeff Parke, 55), 10-Graham Zusi (15-Brad Evans, 66); 11-Brek Shea; 9-Teal Bunbury (18-C.J. Sapong, 76)
Subs not used: 17-Benny Feilhaber
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
PAN: 1-Luis Mejia, 17-Carlos Rodriguez, 2-Eric Vasquez, 14-Eduardo Dasent, 3-Rolando Algandona; 11-Amir Waithe (15- Luis Ovalle, 71), 8-Marcos Sanchez, 6-Gabriel Gomez (13-Juan DeGracia, 90+2), 19-Alberto Quintero (20- Rolando Botello, 77); 7-Blas Perez (capt.), 16-Luis Renteria (9-Manuel Mosquera, 75)
Subs not used: 12-Kevin Melgar, 5-Sergio Thompson, 4-Edward Benitez
Head coach: Julio Dely Valdes
Stats Summary: USA / PAN
Shots: 8 / 11
Shots on Goal: 4 / 5
Saves: 4 / 4
Corner Kicks: 0 / 6
Fouls: 11 / 7
Offside: 0 / 1
USA – Zach Loyd (caution) 14th minute
USA – Jermaine Jones (caution) 42
USA – Geoff Cameron (sent off) 51
USA – A.J. DeLaGarza (caution) 73
Referee: Francisco Chacon (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Daniel Williamson (PAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Gabriel Victoria (PAN)
Fourth Official: Roberto Moreno (PAN)
Budweiser Man of the Match: Nick Rimando