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USMNT beats Panama 3-0 in Gregg Berhalter’s debut as coach

United States midfielder Djordje Mihailovic (8) scores a goal against Panama goalkeeper Eddie Roberts, left, as referee Adonai Escobedo looks on during the first half of a men's international friendly soccer match Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The United States men’s national team beat Panama 3-0 in an exhibition match Sunday night at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., giving Gregg Berhalter a successful debut as head coach.

Berhalter fielded a youthful lineup and made New York Red Bulls center back Aaron Long, 26, team captain for the first time in what was his fourth appearance for the USMNT. 

“In working with Aaron the last two and a half weeks, you see his quality. Every exercise we do, he’s competitive, he’s driving guys, he’s pushing guys — and we like that,” Berhalter said during the postgame news conference, adding that he did speak with veteran Michael Bradley prior to the match about giving Long the armband. “I wouldn’t look at it as a knock against anyone else. …  I would look at it as a positive that Aaron was captain.”

Five players in the starting lineup made their first senior team appearances, tying a record set Sept. 3, 1992 against Canada. By the end of the night, a total of seven U.S. players earned their first caps, including the first goal-scorer of the match, 20-year-old Chicago Fire midfielder Djordje Mihailovic, and the last, LAFC’s Christian Ramirez.

Mihailovic scored in the 40th minute off a cross from fellow debutant Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake) to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in front of the announced crowd of 9,040.

Nine minutes before Ramirez closed out the game in the 89th minute, his LAFC teammate, Walker Zimmerman, knocked in a header to make it 2-0.

Nick Lima, a 24-year-old defender for the San Jose Earthquakes, was named man of the match. Part of his strong first U.S. appearance included intercepting a Panama pass that led to Zimmerman’s goal.

In addition to Lima, Baird, Mihailovic and Ramirez, other newcomers Sunday night included midfielder Jeremy Ebobisse, defender Daniel Lovitz and forward Jonathan Lewis. 

Zack Steffen played most of the game in goal and made three saves before Sean Johnson replaced him with about 15 minutes left. Johnson made one save.

Panama — which finished last in the 2018 World Cup that the United States failed to qualify for — also fielded an inexperienced lineup Sunday, debuting six players.

“When I spoke to the group after the game, I said it was a good base line. It gave us enough content to work with,” Berhalter said. “Some of the movements we were working with on the wings were very complicated movements. It involves three players interchanging, and still with the intention to disorganize the defense and get behind their line. So you could see it. Sometimes we were a bit tentative with that, and then there were other times where we came off and it was really nice.

“So I think there was elements. Those wing combinations I liked at times. We were playing with two 10s to purposefully find them between lines. I think that was very important. We did that effectively, at times …  and then, some of the buildup stuff was OK. We did make some mistakes at times, but overall I thought it was OK.”

The USMNT will conclude its January camp with a Feb. 2 match against Costa Rica at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif. Kickoff is schedule for 3:30 p.m. ET. Fox, UniMas and UDN will broadcast the match.

Lineups:
USA: 1-Zack Steffen (12-Sean Johnson, 74); 2-Nick Lima, 25-Walker Zimmerman, 3-Aaron Long (capt.), 5-Daniel Lovitz; 4-Michael Bradley (6-Wil Trapp 84); 10-Cristian Roldan, 8-Djordje Mihailovic (17-Sebastian Lletget, 62); 7-Corey Baird (14-Paul Arriola, 75), 9-Gyasi Zardes (21-Christian Ramirez, 84), 11-Jeremy Ebobisse (18-Jonathan Lewis, 66) 
Substitutes not used: 13-Reggie Cannon, 16-Russell Canouse, 23-Auston Trusty 
Head Coach: Gregg Berhalter

PAN: 1-Eddie Roberts (12-Orlando Mosquera, 74); 3-Guillermo Benítez (17-Iván Anderson, 46), 4-Fidel Escobar (capt.), 13-Édgar Góndola, 2-Francisco Palacios; 11-Luis Cañate (7-Ángel Orelién, 65), 8-Adalberto Carrasquilla (14-Carlos Harvey, 46), 6-Ernesto Walker (20-Rolando Botello, 71), 10-Omar Browne (16-Edson Samms, 46); 9-Ernesto Sinclair, 18-Abdiel Arroyo
Substitutes not used: 15-José Garibaldi
Head coach: Gary Stempel

Stats Summary: USA / PAN
Shots: 17 / 10
Shots on Goal: 6 / 4
Saves: 4 / 3
Corner Kicks: 8 / 2
Fouls: 12 / 3
Offside: 1 / 0

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