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USMNT vs. Panama, 2015 Gold Cup: What to watch for

With the group clinched it's time to see what the USMNT fringe players can do

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The United States have clinched their Gold Cup group after just two matches. The parents have left for the weekend and it's time to party! A free game to experiment and have fun with. The USMNT rarely, if ever, finds itself in this unique situation.

So, what will Klinsmann decide to do with this freedom when they take on Panama on Monday (9:30 p.m. ET, FS1, UniMas)? Will he rest all the important starters and give the fringe players a look? Will he stay the course and hope to build some much-needed chemistry? If we've learned anything during the German's tenure as U.S. boss it's that he's impossible to predict.

Whichever starting 11 is put out should have the freedom to play without pressure and to attack at every opportunity. With nothing to lose and Panama desperate for three points it could make for a very entertaining affair. Here are some key things you should be watching for:

No more excuses

In Dallas it was hot and muggy. In New England the pitch was awful and almost unplayable. The third group game against Panama takes place at Sporting Park. A stadium that's been very kind to the USMNT in the past, it is known for its pristine pitch and fantastic fan atmosphere. It should be a night for perfect playing conditions. The Americans will have nothing to blame but themselves if they're unable to improve their collective performance.

Depth test

With this free game it's time to see what the fringe players have to offer in a competitive environment. Young and inexperienced players need the chance to prove themselves in an up-tempo, high intensity type of game. Players like Ventura Alvarado and Alfredo Morales could benefit greatly from 90 minutes of competing in a pressure situation.

Then you have the regulars who are still fighting for starting time like DeAndre Yedlin, Gyasi Zardes, and John Brooks. These players are young and will most likely be asked to play significant minutes during this World Cup cycle. Now is a perfect time to give them the chance to play against tough opponents in a meaningful game.

Clogging the midfield

In the first two games in this tournament the Americans have looked extremely vulnerable to the opposing team's counter-attack. When more difficult games approach and better teams see this weakness they will take advantage of it. Jurgen has to find a way to get more bodies in front of his back line to protect that vital part of the field. Perhaps a change in formation would help.

Putting on our pretend manager's hat for a second, we'd like to see a return of the 4-2-3-1 that was so successful during the last World Cup qualifying cycle. Having a double pivot in the defensive midfield would make it a lot more difficult for teams to just walk through the center of the pitch and have free reign on the back line.


Here is the experimental lineup we'd like to see against Panama:

Based on the first two games here's the lineup we expect to see: