Dom Dwyer scores again, but U.S. looks sloppy in Gold Cup draw with Panama
In the U.S. national team's group-stage opener in the Gold Cup -- which is equal parts winnable tournament and opportunity to identify new A-team contributors -- the U.S. underwhelmed in a 1-1 draw against Panama on Saturday in Nashville.
Dom Dwyer's second start delivered another goal and should have coach Bruce Arena pondering the forward's place in the full team moving forward. The Americans' left flank was a strength for most of the day thanks to the work done (often in combination) by Jorge Villafana and Kelyn Rowe, with the latter making his case for some first-team time down the line. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan proved he hasn't lost his shot-stopping ability.
Slow and sloppy characterized the U.S. play for most of the day. After finally finding a breakthrough and taking the lead five minutes into the second half, the Americans lost control of the game and found themselves under immense pressure that eventually led to a Panama equalizer. Lack of cohesion in midfield and a lack of communication in the back line don't bode well for later in the tournament.
5.5 -- Arena put out what looked like a balanced team of youth and experience, but several of his lineup choices did not pan out. Defensively, Graham Zusi struggled all day. Joe Corona did not impact the game in a significant way, leaving Dwyer without the service he needed to be a threat to score more often. The Americans did not press high enough, spending too much of the game on the back foot. All three substitutions were of the attacking variety, a credit to the coach's desire to go for the win.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best -- players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Brad Guzan, 7.5 -- Made several excellent reaction saves when the U.S. was being battered by the Panamanians, and can't be faulted on the goal conceded.
DF Graham Zusi, 4 -- Disastrous defensively and did not make up for it with anything notable on the attacking end. Too slow to handle the position and poor in marking.
DF Matt Besler, 5 -- Guilty of ball-watching and complicit in the Panama goal. Played too many poor passes and was slow to react when attackers made runs in behind.
DF Omar Gonzalez, 6 -- Played well in the first half before fading in the second stanza. Looked out of sync with Besler, leaving gaps that Panama exploited.
DF Jorge Villafana, 6 -- Best threat going forward for the United States in the first half. Played well in combination with Rowe, but may have shirked some of his defensive duties.
MF Kelyn Rowe, 7.5 -- Set up Dwyer's goal with a clever bit of skill and a well-placed cross. Best all-around player on the field for the Americans for most of the time he was out there.
MF Kellyn Acosta, 5.5 -- Lacked sharpness. Turned the ball over too often and whiffed on several defensive moments. Passing was off and set-piece service was poor.
MF Dax McCarty, 5.5 -- Part of an often-lost pairing in central midfield. Link play wasn't good enough. Looked hesitant to play cutting passes and was caught in possession more than once.
MF Joe Corona, 4.5 -- Mostly anonymous for most of his hour on the field. Guilty of several sloppy turnovers. Not nearly influential enough in a creative position.
MF Alejandro Bedoya, 5 -- Like most of his teammates, struggled with decision-making and speed of play. Missed chance to play an early cross late in his shift that might have resulted in a chance on goal.
FW Dom Dwyer, 7 -- Given limited chances due to lacking service, but took his best chance well with a shot to the far corner. Bolstered his case to be in the setup moving into the fall qualifiers.
MF Juan Agudelo, 6.5 -- Added some creative spark when the Americans needed it, but couldn't find the final pass or shot to make his contribution matter to the score line.
MF Gyasi Zardes, NR -- Hit one or two decent crosses after adding some width to the American attack. Too casual on the ball.
FW Jordan Morris, NR -- Made questionable decisions on several touches as the U.S. pushed for a late winner.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.