Tonight 47,622 fans set a new attendance record for a soccer match in the state of Tennessee. Unfortunately, the good news ends almost there. In what was not the most entertaining match, The United States and Panama played to a 1-1 draw in their respective group stage openers, and while it’s a result that will do for both squads it does leave a lot to be desired, especially for the stars and stripes.
My Three Quick Notes:
- Dom Dwyer. The Sporting Kansas City forward has now made two caps (appearances) for the Senior U.S. Men’s National Team and he already has two goals to his ledger. Dwyer was the best player in last week’s Friendly against “new rival” Ghana, and while not playing a large role in tonight’s first half he did score the breakthrough goal for Bruce Arena’s team on this night 50 minutes in. Mark my words now: Dwyer will be on the 2018 World Cup roster and I believe he should play an instrumental role should the US advance in Russia.
- Kelyn Rowe. Much like Dwyer, Rowe made his second consecutive start and only his second overall appearance for the big club. And while not as pivotal a player as Dwyer had been in those two matches, Rowe did make an impact in tonight’s game. Rowe was the man-of-the-match in the first half tonight with a couple excellent chances, and he assisted on the lone goal scored in the second half. Unfortunately, Rowe did need to come off with cramps and could not finish the match, but he definitely provided a spark that the United States desperately needed. Rowe is also a fringe player who before last week has never gotten his chance with the Senior team, and while I’m not ready to assign a roster spot for Russia to him just yet displays like tonight do go a long way to earning those minutes.
- Cohesion. Cohesion. Cohesion. Look, I get it, the Gold Cup does kind of act as a tune-up for the larger world tournaments on the horizon. It still remains an international tournament to determine a champion of North America, Central America, and the Caribbean (no pirates). Coach Arena is also taking this opportunity to take a look at some players who may not have had this type of exposure in big competitions (see above), but at the same time it is also the last major competition and chance to iron out the kinks before taking it to the global stage. As Stuart Holden said as the final whistle blew, this team is still taking time to become a TEAM and to learn to play to each other’s strengths. Friendlies do provide somewhat of this opportunity to learn and feel each other out, but as this Gold Cup tournament continues I’d hope that these boys figure out how to play better together and understand where each other is on the pitch at all times. This is something that occurs naturally as you practice and play more with the same group of players, but that clock is ticking as we are now just 11 months away from first kick in Putin’s world.