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3 things we learned from the USMNT's 2-0 win over Panama

The USMNT rode a commanding first half performance to a 2-0 win over CONCACAF rivals Panama to close out Camp Cupcake. Here's what we learned.

Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

The United States men's national team closed out their winter training camp with a friendly win against Panama, controlling the flow of the match and keeping their opponents effectively out of the game for most of the day. While they could have won by much more than the 2-0 scoreline the match finished with, it's hard to complain about how the USMNT performed.

Things got off to a slow start for the U.S. with Panama disrupting their efforts to create through midfield while taking advantage of a shaky center back partnership of Jermaine Jones and Matt Besler that still lacks chemistry. Fortunately, Nick Rimando was well up for the chances that Panama were able to take, and he kept the U.S. in the match while they settled in early.

Once the momentum started to swing, it became all U.S., all the time. They started threatening on set pieces, with Michael Bradley nearly feeding Clint Dempsey a tap-in off a corner in the 23rd minute if not for an excellent clearance made by Anibal Godoy. Four minutes later, Bradley didn't even need help, scoring an Olimpico off another corner to put the U.S. ahead 1-0.

Ten minutes and several threats later, it was the U.S. scoring again. Gyasi Zardes had been impressing all day long, working hard on the right wing to earn the trust of Jurgen Klinsmann. That work saw him win a ball back in midfield, then drive forward and put in a perfect ball for Dempsey to pounce on and score with ease. That 2-0 scoreline held through halftime, and it was definitely hard to be disappointed with the United States' first-half effort.

The second half was more of a mixed bag -- Chris Wondolowski wasn't nearly as effective as Jozy Altidore was up top, and that lead to the U.S. struggling to take advantage of the balls over the top that they'd done well with in the first half. Fortunately, Panama's performance grew more and more disjointed as the match went on, and the USMNT were able to continue controlling the pace of the game.

It wasn't all rosy, though: DeAndre Yedlin, newly signed at Tottenham Hotspur in England and regarded as the bright future of the USMNT at right back, walked slowly off with an injury and went straight down the tunnel during the second half. The exact nature of the injury wasn't announced by the end of the match, but everyone is hoping that it's nothing serious and won't keep him out for any kind of extended spell.

While you would hope that the USMNT would beat Panama by more than a 2-0 scoreline, you have to come away from Sunday's performance with a lot of encouragement. They came out and played the game they wanted to play, and never allowed Panama to get rolling in any meaningful way. It was an extremely positive performance on the whole, and after the disappointing loss against Chile, it's an excellent sign of progress. Hopefully we see more of these good signs once the European stars come back to camp in the next international window.

United States: Rimando (Johnson 46'); Yedlin (Hedges 72'), Jones, Besler, Shea; Bradley, Diskerud (Kitchen 72'); Zardes, Dempsey (Gil 81'), Ibarra (Nguyen 78'); Altidore (Wondolowski 46')

Goals: Bradley (27'), Dempsey (37')

Panama: Penedo; Parris, Cummings, Escobar (Hormechea 46'), Ovalle (Murillo (46'); Stephens (Diaz 55'), Godoy, Sanchez (Yau 46'), Davis; Blackburn (Pereira 62'), Perez (Buitrago 56')

Goals: None

3 Things We Learned

1. Gyasi Zardes is really, really fun: The 23-year-old LA Galaxy forward was amazing in the first half, winning back several balls, proving to be a constant menace in the U.S. attack, and showing off a dynamic skillset that the national team has lacked in wide areas for a long time. His work rate and drive to succeed created Dempsey's goal, starting by winning the ball in midfield, taking an excellent run on the ball, then putting in a through ball to a spot that only Dempsey could get to. If he can keep doing this for the USMNT, it will make Klinsmann's job much easier.

2. Mix Diskerud is still a work in progress: Diskerud is definitely talented and can be a key piece for the USMNT, but how he fits in to the squad is still a bit of a mystery. He does offer a lot in terms of supporting build-up play through midfield, but he's still not stout enough defensively to really operate well in a double pivot type of midfield -- like in today's 4-2-3-1 or the 3-4-1-2 used in the last match -- against better opposition. How he's used and performs at NYCFC could be massively important to determine where he best fits with the USMNT moving forward.

3. Michael Bradley played well in a more comfortable role: Instead of being asked to be the primary creator or a ball-winner in midfield, Bradley was allowed to roam box-to-box again, supporting all phases of the U.S. squad without being a central figure in attack or defense. That's a much more comfortable role for Bradley, and it comes as little shock that he looked much better than he has in some time. Take some pressure off him and allow him to just be out there on the pitch, and good things happen.