SEATTLE (Sports Network) – Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson scored on either side of the intermission on Tuesday as the United States cruised to a 2-0 victory over Panama in 2014 World Cup qualifying at CenturyLink Field.
The U.S. needed a stoppage-time winner from defender Brad Evans last Friday to steal three points against Jamaica in their last match, but such heroics were not needed on Tuesday.
American manager Jurgen Klinsmann was forced to make a pair of lineup changes to his side as Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi missed the match due to yellow card accumulation, while fellow midfielder Jermaine Jones suffered a concussion in Jamaica and was unavailable.
But the depth on the United States squad came through as Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson were inserted into the starting 11 and the U.S. didn’t miss a beat as Johnson assisted on Altidore’s tally and Cameron collected the lone helper on Eddie Johnson’s goal.
The United States was on the front foot early on as midfield general Michael Bradley had a chance in the second minute, but he blasted a shot well over the bar.
It was Bradley again with a chance in the 22nd minute when he got on the end of a poor defensive clearance by Panama and ripped one that appeared earmarked for the bottom left corner, but the ball smacked off U.S. captain Clint Dempsey.
The Americans opened the scoring in the 36th minute thanks to a brilliantly worked offensive move. Bradley made the first critical pass as he sent the ball out wide to the left flank for Fabian Johnson, who then sent it across the face of goal for a wide-open Altidore and the AZ Alkmaar man made no mistake at the far post, firing it past Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo with a right-footed strike.
Panama failed to create many offensive chances, but found an opportunity right on the stroke of halftime when Alberto Quintero had a shot from well outside the box, but it sailed over the crossbar.
The Americans made it 2-0 in the 53rd minute when Cameron floated a beautiful aerial pass to Eddie Johnson, who timed his run in behind the Panama defense perfectly. The Seattle Sounders man then took a quick touch to control and slid it home with his left foot, sending the hometown crowd of over 40,000 into a frenzy.
The Panamanians never really threatened the U.S. net and the Americans held on for the clean sheet to move to the top of the CONCACAF hexagonal group with 10 points from five matches.
The victory also extends the Americans’ home unbeaten run in World Cup Qualifying to 24 consecutive matches. The United States has not lost at home in qualifying since 2001, holding an impressive 22-0-2 mark over that span.
The U.S. will return to action with another World Cup Qualifier at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah on June 18.
Elsewhere in CONCACAF on Tuesday, Mexico and Costa Rica played to a scoreless draw, while Honduras received goals from Oscar Boniek Garcia and Roger Rojas in a 2-0 win over Jamaica.
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