It’s amazing how much can change in a week and a half.
Just 11 days after losing to Panama, the USA will get its rematch in the Semifinals of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup tonight at 7:00 in Houston. The game will be televised on Fox Soccer, and if both teams play about to the level that they played at RFK Stadium on Sunday, the game shouldn’t really be close.
Panama looked nothing like the team that had delivered a 2-1 victory over the Americans in the group stage. They had some good possession, but unless the ball was placed on a white painted spot in front of the goal and all other players besides the goalkeeper were cleared out of the box, Panama couldn’t score. Losing top striker Blas Perez sure didn’t help either.
They shouldn’t expect to have an easier time scoring against the U.S. defense that has yet to give up a goal since moving Carlos Bocanegra to central defense and inserting Eric Lichaj into the starting lineup in place of Tim Ream. After allowing a few early chances, the Americans stifled Jamaica’s attack for the duration of their CONCACAF Gold Cup Quarterfinal game. Now if we could just cut out those early chances too…
Confidence is high with the U.S. since they dominated the run of play in the second half against Jamaica. Their passing was crisp, their possession was tidy, and they finally looked ready to play to their potential. We should expect to see the same formation and lineup for the U.S. as was on the field for a good chunk of the second half of that game – meaning that Landon Donovan will start in place of Alejandro Bedoya, and Juan Agudelo will start in place of Jozy Altidore as the lone forward in a 4-2-3-1 arrangement.
The winner will take on the winner of tonight’s nightcap – Mexico vs. Honduras – on Saturday in Los Angeles to decide the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Champion.