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World Cup qualifying: USA beats Panama 5-0

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The United States’ worst enemy was themselves as they fell asleep a little bit against Panama - but they still outshot Panama almost 10-1.

Soccer: 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship-Panama at USA Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Starting XI: Christen Press, Carli Lloyd, Mallory Pugh, Samantha Mewis, Julie Ertz, Morgan Brian, Casey Short, Hailey Mace, Abby Dahlkemper, Emily Sonnett, Ashlyn Harris

First, let’s just take a look at this graphic from FS1 displaying stats from the game to set up expectations.

Okay. Just keep those numbers in mind.

The United States women’s national team went into their second game of World Cup qualifying against Panama fresh off a confident, almost ebullient 6-0 win over Mexico. Jill Ellis rotated her roster heavily, bringing in nine new starters and only repeating Julie Ertz and Abby Dahlkemper from her previous starting XI.

But for all the changes, the first half played out even more in the US’ favor than it did against Mexico. Ellis had Mace pushed up next to Carli Lloyd to start the game, leaving three in the back, and though the US looked a little disjointed as a result, they started the scoring early as Sam Mewis dinked in a nice header off a corner kick in the 5’ to make it 1-0.

Mace returned to the back line after about the first 10 minutes, but the attack didn’t slow down. With so many changes and a mid-game formation switch, the team didn’t look all that crisp, and Carli Lloyd needed some time to jump to a higher gear. She had a bunch of efforts right in front of the goal in the 14’, but despite being completely alone in front of goal, her header was right at the goalkeeper, 17-year-old Yenith Bailey. Bailey had a great reaction save on Lloyd’s follow-up and was in fact the highlight of Panama’s game.

Still, she couldn’t keep Lloyd out forever. Lloyd returned in the 23’ with yet another header, this time at the far post, and made it 2-0, and then she scored her second in the 29’ to make it 3-0 with a very rude stepover and turn and shoot.

Not to be outdone, Christen Press came along four minutes later with this breakaway and body fake to make it 4-0.

The half ended at 4-0, having gone pretty much the way you’d think it would go between the current World Cup champions/#1 team in the world and a team that until five weeks ago hadn’t played a game in four years. After securing the scoreline, the team noticeably relaxed, and throughout the half the passing was not super crisp, but that never bit the US with anything more than a couple of stifled attempts by Panama to break out of their own half.

The game slowed down a lot in the second half. Ellis started things off with a sub, bringing on Rose Lavelle for Julie Ertz. Brian dropped a little and Lavelle went forward, looking to link up with Lloyd and Press. Her connection with Pugh was a little lacking, especially considering the two are club teammates ta the Washington Spirit, but Pugh was not sharp for a lot of the game. She lost a lot of one-v-ones and her timing on crosses and runs wasn’t clicking with teammates.

Lavelle made an immediate impact though, dropping a free kick into the box for Lloyd to finish her hat trick and make it 5-0.

But the team backed off once again after the goal, losing cohesion and not managing a lot of link-up play. Panama, perhaps sensing that they were being given an opening, cranked up the intensity. They worked their way through the midfield and into their attacking third and managed a look at goal in the 62’, then forced a save out of Ashlyn Harris in the 70’.

The US woke up a little after Harris’ parry and tried to drag the game back into Panama’s territory. Lindsey Horan came on in the 77’ for Abby Dahlkemper, moving the team once again to three in the back, with Horan pushing higher with the forward line and acting as another target for distribution by Lavelle and Brian. Horan definitely kept Panama on their toes, dragging left and trying to put the ball in with Lloyd and sometimes Pugh or Press on the back post as her target.

But despite the late pressure, there were no more goals to be had. There were some nice individual moves - Lavelle confidently carrying the ball out of the midfield, Lloyd unselfishly laying it off for Press to take a shot - but as a whole, the US was definitely looking like someone trying to wake up from a nap. Not the same confident display of verve they displayed against Mexico, but also not a cause for panic. This didn’t look like a team playing badly, just a bit lazily. Let’s not forget those stats from the top of the page; a “lazy” game from the US still resulted in a 5-0 win with 18 shots on goal. They got the three points, took a massive lead in goal differential, and no one got injured.

The United States will face Trinidad & Tobago in their last game of group on Wednesday, October 10 at 7:30 PM ET.