The United States made it to Philadelphia. Unfortunately it's not to play in the final, but to take part in the Gold Cup third place consolation match. If there's one thing Americans love, it's consolation prizes. Right? RIGHT? Okay, maybe not. Just because the U.S. isn't in the final doesn't mean you shouldn't watch this match. There is still a huge playoff match to be played in October for the right to go to the 2017 Confederations Cup to focus on.
Several analysis pieces have already been published on the USMNT's failure to make it to the final and surely more will follow. Poor roster selection, lineup inconsistencies, and overall poor performances plagued the Americans throughout the competition.
So, what can we learn from this consolation match to help improve the team's future outlook? Changes need to be made, that's for sure. But, where do we look to make those changes? Which players are on the chopping block? Here are some of the biggest things you should keep an eye on against Panama:
Destroying the midfield
Heading into the year 2015, Kyle Beckerman was the undisputed best defensive midfielder in the USMNT player pool. He had some very impressive performances at the World Cup, and was an important crutch for Jurgen Klinsmann to lean on when he needed to clog the midfield. Unfortunately, the 33-year-old is losing his mobility and it showed in this tournament. While it's probably premature to pull the plug on Beckerman's USMNT career just yet, it's definitely on life support. If he starts against Panama you should probably cherish watching him play because it could be the last time you see him in a USA kit.
A lot has been made of Klinsmann's decision to start inexperienced players in key areas of the pitch. Most notably Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks were picked over more established veterans. In the end, the strategy backfired in the short term. Will the the strategy pay off later in the cycle when these two youngsters are asked to play in more crucial games? Only time will tell.
As angry as the USMNT and their fans may be about the loss to Jamaica, Panama's anger is that multiplied by 1,000 after the way they lost in the semifinals. They led Mexico 1-0 with just two minutes of normal time remaining when referee Mark Geiger awarded Mexico one of the more dubious penalties you'll ever see. Mexico would win another penalty in extra time to win 2-1. Panama was understandably irate with the referee and all of CONCACAF.
This match could go one of two ways. Panama could come out dejected and lackluster or they could come out with a point to prove against the USA. Smart money is on the latter, as the U.S. are thought to be neck-and-neck with Mexico at the top of the region. Defeating the Americans would give Panama a chance to prove that they deserved to beat Mexico and were robbed of the Gold Cup.
Here is the lineup we'd like to see against Panama: