Just a couple quick thoughts on this piece by Jamie Trecker before kickoff.
Trecker's thesis, for those too lazy to click on the link, is that the US-Panama game was horrible to watch (probably overstating it), and the reason is that the United States don't play any "recognizable style" (surely true to a degree). Trecker then continues that this lack of discernable style makes it impossible to evaluate the players out there (another overstatement). And that players not having defined roles likely will cause problems in the future.
Trecker seems to enjoy his role as US soccer critic. Indeed, it would be a nice corrective if the other commentators on US soccer/football (such as those at ESPN, Grant Wahl of SI, etc.) were constantly too optimistic about the home town boys. But that's not really the case. Trecker just seems to always voice the most negative viewpoint on the USMNT. For instance, Trecker described the quality of play in the US-Honduras as "breathtakingly poor". That's no small statement; it's hard to imagine that a team could play worse than "breathtakingly poor", or at least that it could be adequately described as worse than that by the English language. If the United States had actually lost, perhaps new words would have to be invented for Trecker's article. No doubt that the play was poor in the first half, but it wasn't terrible in the second half when the US netted both goals. And that was the "B" squad anyway.
Still, Trecker's point about style isn't without merit. There is no defining US style akin to Dutch total football or the Italian catenaccio, Italian for "winning one-nil". But if part of that is a failure of the coaching staff, another reason is that the United States is young as a footballing nation, or at least as one that's any good.
Besides, diversity in means of attack isn't necessarily a bad thing. The United States rightfully abandoned the long ball against Panama after it was totally ineffective. But a large reason it was ineffective was because most of the service wasn't very good. Should the United States be possession side? The real answer is, sometimes. The United States have good central midfielders in Bradley and Feilhaber (or whoever ends up starting), but they are not Xavi and Iniesta either. Sometimes the United States will have to play over the top and attempt to win the ball deep. Using a combination of both doesn't mean that the Americans lack defined roles.
But regardless, making determinations about a lack of shape when watching this particular American side is folly. This team will struggle to play possession, long ball, or any other style because it's not very talented. After all, this is the United States' "C" team at this point, with the players that returned to Europe after the group stage. This team will take results, any way it can get them.
Time for the Gold Cup semis, assuming the start isn't delayed by lightning at Soldier Field.