TAMPA, Fla. – It’s a script the US national team has seen play out plenty of times over the last year or so: Slow start. Early deficit. Frantic fight-back.
On some days, there’s a happy and even heroic ending for the USA, but not on Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium, where Panama made history by registering one of the biggest upsets in CONCACAF history by beating the Yanks 2-1.
“For some reason we were just a little lackadaisical and a little complacent early,” USA and LA Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan said. “We had some of the ball and we felt OK about ourselves but they put us on our heels a few times and they made a play that changed the game. … We can’t start that way. That’s the overwhelming, obvious point.”
Panama netted a goal in the 19th minute and doubled their lead on a PK in the 36th. It was only after being scored upon that the USA reacted, although at times it was haphazard.
“I think we had some periods where we connected passes,” manager Bob Bradley said, “but the ideas in terms of how to play through, when to use the wide areas – I think we probably had the ball in some pretty good spots but we didn’t finish plays off well enough.”
It’s a character flaw that continues to surface for Bradley’s squad. But the most disconcerting part of it is that there are no answers offered up for why it happens or how to correct it. There is no solution in sight. And there’s very little time to figure it out with the third and decisive group match – a must-win against Guadaloupe – coming up on Tuesday.
“I don’t know if you can pinpoint it,” Donovan said. “Sometimes it just takes you a while to get going for whatever reason. There’s no excuse. There’s no reason. It just happened. You give them credit, they took advantage of it.”
“I don’t know,” defender Tim Ream said. “It was completely different from how we came out against Canada in Detroit. It wasn’t like we were looking past this game and already putting ourselves through. For whatever reason we just didn’t move the ball quick enough and put enough pressure on and come out with enough energy.”
The USA was praised for the opening half of the match against Canada, staking itself out to a 1-0 lead after just 15 minutes. That first win came under the roof of Detroit’s Ford Field, but the American manager and his players are not laying any blame on the warm temperatures in Tampa, which hit 90 degrees.
“I don’t think the heat was a factor,” Bradley said. “On the nigh,t we were not sharp enough. Now, with the fast turnaround, we’re clearly going to consider some changes and be ready to go for the game on Tuesday in Kansas City.
“The road to move forward in this tournament is a little different.”