US keen to right wrongs of loss to Panama

Bradley & Co. say they've learned from their mistakes vs. Red Tide

HOUSTON — In the knockout stages of a tournament, it’s always about the next
game. But in the case of the US national team’s Gold Cup semifinal date with
Panama on Wednesday (6 p.m. CT, Fox Soccer), it’s a rare chance to right the
wrongs of the first time around.

The US are keen to learn from their mistakes from a stunning 2-1 loss to the
Panamanians in the group stage and ensure they don’t drop a second game to the
Central American nation in 10 days. The first loss was a surprise, but a second
loss would be devastating. The US has had time to reflect on that defeat and Bob
Bradley’s team is fully aware of what’s at stake.

“You get to the end of a tournament and every little thing is put to the
highest test,” midfielder Michael Bradley said after training at Reliant Stadium
on Tuesday. “With the chance to get to the final, we want to step on the field
and be committed to putting everything we have out there and have the confidence
to play and … get after them.

“I think the main thing we took away from the first game was their discipline
defensively,” he added. “We know they’re hard to play against and they’ll sit
back a little bit.”

While knowing what to expect is an advantage for the US, there’s also been 10
days for the team to digest and respond mentally to the loss. With a spot in the
final against Mexico or Honduras at stake, it’s clear this team feels it’s in a
different place.

“I think we’ve grown in form and we’re peaking at the right time,” said Clint
Dempsey. “I’m excited about the game and the way we’re playing. If you look at
the last game, I think we played some of the best football I can remember with
this team as far as the movement and passing.”

While there’s confidence within the US group, no one’s taking Panama
lightly. La Marea Roja are an organized and composed squad that can
make breaking down their defense difficult.

But for the US, the formula for success is more about what they have to do to
advance than it is about their opponents. It’s a formula based on poised passing
and confidence both on and off the ball.

“I think we’re going to be better organized and better in possession,”
Dempsey said. “I think we’ll be more confident in possession and I think we’ll
be able to take the game to them like we did Jamaica. Panama’s a good side — we
respect them - but at the same time we have to go out and play our game and be
confident we can go out and get a result.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on
twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.