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U.S. Soccer

A man, a plan, a canal: Yanks rout Canaleros 3 - 0 in Arizona

Former FC Tucson player Long managed stifling backline

A little more than 9,000 people got to see coach Greg Berhalter’s debut as U.S. national team coach at Glendale’s State Farm Stadium on Sunday night. The Yanks — captained by ex-FC Tucson player Aaron Long — beat Panama’s national side, known as the Canaleros, 3 – 0.

Casual fans who haven’t seen the soccer side since they failed to qualify for the World Cup last year would have been surprised at the dearth of familiar faces taking the field. Of the starting 11, only LAFC’s Gyasi Zardes and veteran Michael Bradley had a role in the qualifying campaign. Five of the starters had their first appearance for the national team.

It didn’t take long from the opening whistle to realize that this was going to be a very different style of play than what has been seen from the national side over the last few years. It took only a couple of minutes for right back Nick Lima to penetrate far into the Panamanian final third. The play did not result in a look at goal, but it provided a demonstration of the tactics that coach Berhalter has been encouraging in camp.

The first strong look at goal was from Zardes, who struck a pass from Jeremy Ebobisse (one player making his first appearance with the squad) with his trademarked dyed blonde head in the eighth minute. The ball sailed over the cross bar.

Zardes, in the end, was not able to score, but his presence up top helped create space and opportunity for other players. In the 40th minute, Zardes sallied into the final third. After a knock, he went down, but the ball ended up with Corey Baird who dished it to Djordje Mihailovic. Mihailovic found the back of the net.

It was the first goal of the night with a couple of other firsts thrown in. Both goal scorer Mihailovic and assist maker Baird were making their first appearances with the team.

Mihailovic almost earned another place on the sheet as the first half was winding down when he sent a shot to Lima, but that was saved by Eddie Roberts, making his first appearance for the Canaleros.

Just past the hour mark, Sebastian Lleget, Jonathan Lewis and Paul Arriola (a grizzled veteran by this match’s standards at 17 caps) came on to the field. It seemed inject some new energy into a line-up that was showing some wear at that point.

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Even with those attacking players on the field, it fell to two defenders to combine for the next goal. In minute 80, Nick Lima, still causing fits up the right side, pitched the ball to Walker Zimmerman, waiting in the box. It was Zimmerman’s second goal for the USA.

Minnesota FC’s Christian Ramirez came on the field late and scored the final US goal in minute 89.

The U.S. men continue their winter schedule under coach Berhalter with a match on Saturday in San Jose against Costa Rica.

Long time

Former FC Tucson player Aaron Long received a surprise on Saturday night: he was told that he would be the captain of the team.

Michael Bradley had been captain of the team since July of 2015, and it was unusual to see the armband given to a player making only his third appearance for the team.

Coach Berhalter named Long’s “leadership qualities” as his reason for handing off the armband.

“Every exercise we do, he’s competitive,” he said. “He’s driving guys; he’s pushing guys. We liked that. We like his demeanor.”

Long said that Bradley was “all class” when it came to responding to the decision.

“He said ‘be proud tonight; relish the moment. I’m happy for you.’”

Sigi

The U.S. players wore black armbands with the word “Sigi” on them. This was for coach Sigi Schmid, who died in December. Although he had two stints coaching the U.S. under-20 squad, he didn’t ever coach the full national team. His influence on the team was tremendous, however. His nearly twenty years of coaching the UCLA Bruins meant he mentored the core of the national team in the 1990s and early 2000s. He also went on to have a tremendous effect on the professional game in this country wining MLS Cups with two different teams and five U.S. Open Cups with the Seattle Sounders.

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Panama is young too

Lost in all the talk about the U.S.’s young squad was that Panama had a lot of first time players too. Six Panamanian players made their first appearances for the team on Sunday night.

Interestingly, the two most experienced players on the squad, forward Abdiel Arroyo and team captain Fidel Escobar, are currently unattached to any club team.

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Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

USA midfielder Djordje Mihailovic opened the scoring in the 40th minute.

United States vs. Panama

State Farm Stadium, Glendale

Scoring Summary

USA – Djordje Mihailovic (40')
USA – Walker Zimmerman (80')
USA – Christian Ramirez (88')

United States: Zack Steffen (Sean Johnson 74') - Nick Lima, Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Long, Daniel Lovitz - Michael Bradley (Wil Trapp, 84'), Cristian Roldan, Djordje Mihailovic (Sebastian Lletget, 62') - Corey Baird (Paul Arriola, 75'), Gyasi Zardes (Christian Ramirez, 84'), Jeremy Ebobisse (Jonathan Lewis, 66')

Panama: Eddie Roberts - Guillermo Benítez (Iván Anderson, 46'), Fidel Escobar, Édgar Góndola, Francisco Palacios - Luis Cañate (Ángel Orelién, 65'), Adalberto Carrasquilla (Carlos Harvey, 46'), Ernesto Walker (Rolando Botello, 71'), Omar Browne (Edson Samms, 46') - Ernesto Sinclair, Abdiel Arroyo