Despite the complaints about the temporary playing surface, Century Link Field proved as good a home as any for the US Men’s National Team. The Seattle crowd of 40,000 plus sang from start to finish as the US controlled play for the majority of the game, getting goals from striker Jozy Altidore in the 36th minute and forward Eddie Johnson in the 79th.
The crowd held up red, white, and blue scarves showing the words “Perilous Fight” as the American Outlaws led the crowd in belting out the Star Spangled Banner which was followed by a tribute to the 100 years of US soccer. The crowd held up giant flags draped over top of them, commemorating important events such as the inception of US Soccer, the miracle win 1-0 over England, and the 1994 World Cup.
The US entered the game missing two of their most effective players of late. Graham Zusi who had been brilliant filling in the role vacated by Landon Donovan on the right wing was suspended for the game after picking up his second yellow card of the group stage in the win over Jamaica while Jermaine Jones was also was forced out of action thanks to a concussion the central midfielder received in Kingston last Friday.
The match kicked off strong with the Yanks pushing forward, getting width, and creating opportunities early on with the first real chance coming in the 21st minute.
Michael Bradley pushed forward out of the midfield to find Fabian Johnson out wide whose cross into the box was cleared right back to Bradley. Bradley fired on goal, but the shot went directly into the leg of Clint Dempsey, keeping the score 0-0.
Jozy Altidore, fresh off setting the record for most goals by an American in a European season and snapping a year long streak without a goal from the run of play in a U.S. shirt, came into the match with tallies in each of his last two games and continued his strong form against Panama.
He showed well early, making a strong turn with the ball to hold off two defenders and a run at goal in the 34th minute that should have drawn a blow from the referees whistle.
Two minutes later Altidore kept the momentum rolling when he slammed home a Fabian Johnson cross that set the Seattle crowd on fire and gave the Nats a 1-0 lead.
The play began with Bradley charging forward from beyond midfield igniting the break like Steve Nash, drawing attention from the defense and with his head on a swivel playing a beautiful ball out wide to Fabian Johnson who found an open Altidore back post to slam in the night’s opening goal. Altidore’s third goal in three games was set up in large part by Clint Dempsey’s run to the near post which drew two Panama defenders, leaving Altidore wide open on the back post.
The US looked it’s best all night long when Bradley was able to find space in the midfield and push forward with the ball.
In the 41st Dempsey laid off a ball to Bradley who hit it solid but high from just outside the box. The team looks completely different when Michael Bradley is getting forward and getting involved in the attack from his midfield position.
Just before half time, Panama’s equalizer was disallowed in the 45th minute due to an obvious offsides call made by the linesman.
The Yanks kept momentum going in the second half when in the 52nd minute Geoff Cameron, getting the start in central midfield for the injured Jermaine Jones, played a beautiful ball over the top of the Panama defense to a streaking Eddie Johnson who had timed his run perfectly passed the Panama back line. Johsnon, the Seattle Sounders’ forward, gathered in the ball with one touch and calmly slotted it home to give the Yanks a 2-0 lead in front of his home crowd.
The combination of Cameron to Johnson proved especially sweet as both men were filling in for regular starters Zusi and Jones.
In the 54th minute the American Outlaws burst out into the famous “USA ain’t nothing to f*** with!” chant which could be heard for over a minute on TV. The beauty of America and live television in one glorious minute.
The Outlaws continued to entertain when in the 57th minute they began singing “We are going to Brazil…we are going… we are going… we are going to Brazil”
As someone who grew up admiring 455 straight sellouts for the Tribe, the Dawg Pound, and the deafening sounds from Cavs’ playoff games I’m a sucker for great fans. And boy did the fans in Seattle put on a show last night.
Tim Howard who is accustomed to racuas crowds in the Premier League, and trips to the famous Estadio Azteca in Mexico City gave high praise for the 40,000 that showed their support on Tuesday.
“Columbus is great, and Kansas City has been fantastic, but this was rocking. They did themselves justice tonight,” the US keeper explained.
Up 2-0 the crowd continued to sing, and chant as the team started to play its most fluid and creative attacking soccer of the Yurgen Klinsmann era.
In the 65th minute Cameron created a turnover, kept possession and ignited the break which led to Dempsey laying off a back heel pass at the top of the box to Altidore who sent a rifle at the Panama goalie. Dempsey followed up the rebound but couldn’t get a good hit on it, bouncing his volley off the turf then crossbar
As the 70th minute approached the entire stadium broke out in a slow clap which prompts ESPN commentator and former national teamer, Taylor Twellmam, to proclaim “You could play in a sand pit in front of this crowd!”
The US continued to give the home crowd a show in the 79th as Dempsey played another back heel to Bradley just into the Panama half. Bradley then hit a long ball across the field out wide to Fabian Johnson on the left flank who found Altidore sitting in the hole of the defense. Altidore then slid a beautiful ball to DeMarcus Beasley, making a full field run, but he was only able to draw post with the shot.
The US attack had fluidity and creativity to it, keeping the Panamanians on their heels.
In the 91st Tim Howard was called upon for his first real test of the night, coming off his goal line to make a kick save and bail out Omar Gonzalez who got caught ball watching.
Preserving the shutout should go a long way in the confidence department for this squad. The way the game played the US really deserved a third goal but 2-0 and preserving a shutout for a team that has had its struggles defenesively is huge.
The US now sits atop the Hexagonal standings with 10 points. Costa Rica and Mexico sit 2nd with 8 points with Mexico have played one more game.
The top three automatically qualify for Brazil 2014.