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USA vs. Panama, 2019 friendly: What to watch for

It’s the first match of the year! What should we expect on Sunday night?

United States Training Session Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team open up their 2019 slate in Glendale, Arizona tomorrow against Panama. It’s the first match of the year for the USMNT, and the first match for new coach Gregg Berhalter. American fans will get to see how this team will shape up under his tenure, and there are quite a few players on the roster who will be looking to make an impression. They take on fellow CONCACAF members Panama, who are coming off their first-ever World Cup in 2018 and are also looking to some new players to carry them into the next World Cup cycle. It’s the first of two matches during this January Camp.

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What To Watch For

Can this team generate some offense? American fans are not used to a USMNT who can score a bunch of goals. The most they scored in a match in 2018 was 3, against Bolivia in March. Gyasi Zardes, who thrived for Columbus Crew SC under Berhalter in 2018, will need to lead the way in finishing chances inside the box. The midfield will need to have the possession necessary to build an attack and create those chances. Can they do it against Panama?

Who makes their mark? Usually, there’s one or two players who feature during January Camp who will factor into the team throughout the rest of that year and beyond. This is a chance to show that they can be a part of Berhalter’s plans. Who will take advantage of this opportunity? You’re going to see a USMNT that will play hard through the final whistle.

Will Gregg Berhalter’s style of play impress? This is the first chance for fans to see how a Gregg Berhalter United States Men’s National Team plays. After a year of despair and overall apathy towards the program, will this be a match that can excite fans? A fun style of play will help.

Lineup Prediction

Gregg Berhalter usually employed a 4-2-3-1 when he coached in Columbus, and we should expect that he’ll bring that same formation to the national team. Against Panama, he’ll likely go with a lineup that has a couple MLS veterans and a couple newcomers to the player pool:

USMNT vs. Panama Predicted Lineup

At goalkeeper, he’ll go with the presumed #1, Zack Steffen. His back line has a lot of possibilities, but look for him to go with Reggie Cannon at right back, Daniel Lovitz at left back, and Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long as his centerbacks. There will likely be some rotation, but he’ll start with a back line that has some experience on this level, minus the newcomer Lovitz.

At midfield, fans may not want to see a defensive midfield pairing of Wil Trapp and Michael Bradley, but fans should expect to see just that tomorrow. Russell Canouse would be an interesting alternative, as he has played incredible soccer for D.C. United. He will likely come on as a second half substitute. For the attacking midfielders, Paul Arriola and Cristian Roldan will provide options on the right and in the middle, while Corey Baird will make his debut on the left. Up front, Gyasi Zardes flourished under Berhalter’s system, and he’ll get a chance to do the same thing against Panama.

Match Prediction

The USMNT will come out with passion and really seek to establish the issue, but this is going to turn into a sluggish match. With both teams rusty and just looking to try some lineup combinations out, we’ll see a goal on each side. But, it ends in a 1-1 draw and Gregg Berhalter will have to wait at least one more week to try for his first victory as USMNT head coach.