Bob sent out an MLS domestic all-star team to take on Panama, and that only seems appropriate, given the physical, oft-times brutal approach of the Panamanian team. One hopes that perhaps that was Bob's reasoning for including Jay Heaps, who was burned far too often in his last match out for the US. Still, in a game that sometimes bordered on mind-numbing, the US had just about enough about them to see themselves through to the semifinals of the Gold Cup. So let's hit a few talking points, shall we..?
* This game was screaming for a Feilhaber. The US had their moments in attack, but probably would have had more with a steadier hand guiding the ship. Beckerman is an adequate two-way player, and certainly showed his attacking quality with a blistering volley for the equalizer, but I can't shake the feeling that he's much better in a "disrupt and distribute" role behind a creative type like Feilhaber. Or hell, alongside pretty much anybody who could make their presence felt. There were stretches of this match where you would have been forgiven for thinking that Logan Pause had stepped off the pitch for a bit of light refreshment, such was his contribution on the field of play. I wonder, with the players at his disposal, if Bob might have considered playing Holden alongside Beckerman and having Quaranta on the right wing.
* Rogers is not the left-wing messiah. Sure, he torched the amateurs from Grenada, but when it comes to facing real opposition, he's not done much of note. He has dangerous moments, but always seems to hold the ball too long, dribble into a thicket of defenders, or hit a god-awful, Hejdukian cross. A project for the future, no doubt, but for my money, he's not ready for prime time (read as: the Hex qualifiers).
* Fair play to the ref. Though there were a handful of questionable calls, and I can't help but wonder how Perez and Baloy (and others, though those two seemed the most to blame) kept getting away with so much brutish play, he kept a pretty tight lid on a potentially explosive match (any match involving Panama is primed to be "explosive," I suppose). Here you see the difference between a Mexican ref, used to calling matches at a high level, and the assorted whistle-bearing martinets of CONCACAF who consistently disgrace the game and themselves when the big spotlight is on.
I don't have too much more to take from this one. Nobody really distinguished themselves, though I thought all three center-backs (Marshall, Conrad, and his replacement, Goodson) handled themselves, and their dangerous opposition, with aplomb. Conrad, in limited minutes before he got knocked senseless, looked an entirely different player than the one who occupied a great big pile of suck in the group stage. Other than that, I think we've come about as far as I expected with the crew Bob put together--farther actually, considering the talent we've shipped back to Europe for the start of pre-season. I wonder if he'll consider calling in any of his "extras" for the semifinal against a Honduras team that looked to be playing us pretty well until we brought on the quality in Feilhaber and Davies in the group stage meeing.