Vlatko Andonovksi heavily rotated his roster on Friday night against Panama, bringing in seven players to start who either subbed in or did not play last game. Of particular note, he gave Andi Sullivan a start, switched in Ashlyn Harris, and let Lynn Williams and Jess McDonald start together. It wasn’t necessarily something that needs deep analysis - as noted in our match preview, there is every reason to rotate rosters in qualifying when playing these younger Concacaf teams, and Panama certainly lacks the same organization as Haiti did in the US’ opener.
That lack of organization showed pretty much immediately as Lindsey Horan started the scoring in the 3’. She made up for an earlier gimme that went begging, this time finishing a spilled ball from the goalkeeper’s gloves. It was a bad night for young Panamanian GK Yenith Bailey, who not only got scored on multiple times (while also having some good grabs) but also got Jess McDonald’s head flying into hers, requiring her to sub out in the 33’.
Lynn Williams doubled the lead in the 15’, Horan setting her up beautifully with a smart tap to redirect the ball into Williams’ path under pressure from multiple defenders.
That Horan pass to play in Lynn Williams pic.twitter.com/1HydeRrN6b— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 1, 2020
Then Horan made it 3-0 in the 18’, Emily Sonnett swerving around the ball in a dummy that had a defender’s panicked clearance attempt ricochet right to Horan’s feet. And then it was Rose Lavelle in the 21’, set up by Lynn Williams near the top of the box. Lavelle’s goal had just a hint of curl, placing it nicely into the side netting.
Scoring slowed down after that, although the final stats for the first half showed 17 shots from the US and 0 from Panama. The US was an attacking beast, driving relentlessly at goal, but losing some of the finishing from the first 20 or so minutes. Mistimed runs and some bad touches from Horan and McDonald let the ball get away from them, although the reset was never very far away as the defensive line was basically at midfield.
The second half started with no subs and the same driven energy. The midfield created a lot of high pressure on Panama, forcing turnovers and keeping the ball pretty close to the Panama goal. Lindsey Horan in particular was the engine, helping pressure, picking up the ball, and looking for the player in space. The team made two subs to change things up, bringing Christen Press on for Megan Rapinoe in the 16, and Abby Dahlkemper on for Crystal Dunn in the 62’. Press added a necessary element to the attack, which was getting frustratingly jammed up in the box. She picked up Lavelle’s nice fed balls forward, pulling players to the edges of the box, although her tendency to want to do everything herself had her neglecting some better options. But she still put one away in the 70’, a header she managed to loop just over the goalkeeper’s fingers to make it 5-0.
Tobin heath came on in the 71’ for Lynn Williams and immediately started getting in on the action, driving at the goal from the right and centrally as she and McDonald rotated through space. She made it 7-0 in the 78’ as Horan fed her another wonderful through ball with just the right weight to put her in one-on-one with the keeper. Heath toyed with the keeper for a moment before putting it in near side.
Tobin Heath hit 'em with the no-look! pic.twitter.com/4jqkyg7giM— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 1, 2020
Horan completed her hat trick in the 81’ as McDonald dropped a great ball over the defenders bunched in front of goal. Horan gave it a one-time scoop at far post and made it 8-0.
Press wasn’t done, even though the game was closing out. She had an audacious behind-the-back attempt in the 85’ that had the crowd gasping, but the ball was just wide. Rose Lavelle also had a last-minute attempt, but she took too long with her shot and the keeper was able to close distance and deflect the ball out. The last gasp chance was for McDonald in literally the last seconds of the game. Emily Sonnett, pushed high as she was for much of the game,
Overall, it was a somewhat better showing from the US than against Haiti, but it was also a much less tough and less organized opponent. Lynn Williams continues to make herself a viable option as a first-string attacker, but Jess McDonald was not similarly on the ball. Andi Sullivan was solid but once again, she just had to not make too many obvious errors and this game would have been fine.