After a game like Ghana where it seemed many players had stand-out days, choosing a Man of the Match against Panama was relatively simple. Brad Guzan made a number of important saves, and Dom Dwyer scored another goal, putting in more relentless work pressuring the opposing defense, but Kelyn Rowe stood out nearly as much in his absence at the end of the game as he did in his 70 minutes on the field.
In a see-saw first half where the U.S. had the better of the chances to begin, Rowe popped up with two shots on goal, equaling the total the rest of the U.S. put on goal the remainder of the game. It became increasingly evident as the game wore on that Rowe would be the straw stirring the drink for the U.S. in midfield, as Joe Corona all but disappeared at the number 10 position. Luckily, Rowe managed to deliver the goods, getting past two Panamanian defenders and beating out a third with his cut-back cross finding Dom Dwyer in the box for a temporary lead.
After Rowe was subbed off in favor of Gyasi Zardes, the U.S. were toothless from the wings, forcing Dax McCarty and Kellyn Acosta to play hero-ball from their deeper midfield positions while Dwyer and Juan Agudelo tried to muscle Panama off the ball. Zardes didn’t produce any comically poor touches with his time on the field, but he also didn’t produce any danger, or even really attempt to run at the defense at all, either. Where the offensive danger comes from on this roster has to be a worrying question for Arena after Panama. Corona was invisible; Zardes was timid; Alejandro Bedoya and Kellyn Acosta both were industrious but made plenty of errors as well. The only attacking players that didn’t make an appearance on Saturday were Paul Arriola and Chris Pontius. Martinique and Nicaragua will in all probability be far more comfortable games, but those questions will linger. Just who out of this group will actually be in the running for the USMNT when the squad meets again for World Cup Qualifiers? Right now, not very many at all.
Overall, the U.S. looked much more dangerous on the field with Rowe on the ball, topping Dwyer’s goal and Guzan’s saves.
Think someone else deserved Man of the Match? Let us know in the comments!