Gio Reyna got the USA going with a free kick and the Americans never looked back. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)
WIENER NEUSTADT, Austria – One game certainly does not make a team, reputation or generation.
But the young U.S. men’s national team that performed at Wiener Neustadt Stadion Monday, showed promise, resilience, ability to score some goals and a little swagger.
The Americans overcame an early one-goal deficit to register a 6-2 victory against a mediocre Panama side in an international friendly.
Still, a win, is a win is a win as the USMNT finished its Euro trip with a 1-0-1 mark after tying host Wales last Friday.
Playing in only their second international matches, Nicholas Gioacchini led the assault with a brace and his first international goal and Gio Reyna added a free kick in the opening half in the closed-door match. In his international debut as a second-half substitute, Sebastian Soto recorded a brace and Sebastian Lletget had a late goal.
“We’re all hungry,” Gioacchini said. “We’re all hungry to play all hungry to start, all hungry to prove and to show what what we’re made of.”
The USMNT certainly did that Monday.
The late-match scoring came so quickly that Reyna admitted that he lost track.
“It was a good team performance,” he said. “I don’t know if it was six or seven. I don’t even remember. Obviously, we scored a lot of goals.”
Head coach Gregg Berhalter saw the game as an experience at several levels, for the team’s confidence and for its future when it has to play in the Nations League or World Cup qualifying.
“It was important for us to be involved in a game like this, especially for some of the younger guys to play against a Concacaf opponent to see the the intensity that they play at,” he said. “It was a very difficult game, very physical game, more physical than the Wales game, Guys getting fouled. They’re not going to be fouls. Youve got to play on.”
The USMNT’s starting age was Starting XI has an average age of 22 years, 154 days, the second youngest USA lineup ever after the side that faced Italy Nov. 20, 2018 (22 years, 71 days). The Starting XI averaged 12 caps.
The Central Americans caught the USA napping in the eighth minute and the team paid for it.
Alejandro Yearwood sent in a long cross from the left flank that José Fajardo found room between center backs Tim Ream and Matt Miazga and headed the ball home past goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
“We came out slow,” Berhalter said. “We got scored on and then it was a wake up call and in that period after that, we got scored on until the end of the first half was really good; really happy with that. Really lively. … It was impressive from the guys.”
The goal woke up the Americans, who took control of the game during a stunning eight-minute span.
After 17-year-old Yunus Musah was fouled just outside the penalty area, Reyna struck a low free kick that surprised goalkeeper Orlando Mosquera on the right side for a 1-1 equalizer in the 22nd minute. It was the midfielder’s first international goal only three days after his 18th birthday.
Barely four minutes later, the USMNT was celebrating again, this time Gioacchini’s first goal. Reyna set up Uly Llanez on the right side and he sent a shot that Mosquera saved. He left the rebound for Gioacchini, who slotted the ball home for a 2-1 advantage and his first USA goal in the 26th minute.
Gioacchini wasn’t finished. In the 26th minute, Weston McKennie saved the ball at the end line and crossed it to Miazga on the right side of the penalty area. The former Red Bulls defender headed it to the Caen forward, who headed it in for a 3-1 lead.
“Frankly, I had a week, I’ll never, never ever forget,” Gioacchini said.
Needing goals, Panama went on the attack in the second half, but the USMNT managed to hold off its Concacaf foes.
After the Panamanians were called for a hand ball in the 65th minute. Gioacchini decided to take the PK for a hat-trick. His shot, however, wasn’t well placed. It went into the middle of the goal as Mosquera saved it.
A pair of second-half substitutes combined for the USA’s fourth goal in the 82nd minute as Richie Ledezma’s right-wing cross was headed home by Soto only five minutes after the latter made his international debut.
Lletget, the lone MLS-based player on the squad, made it 5-2 with a score in the 87th minute before Soto added another header goal in stoppage time to close out the scoring.
“We stuck together and we had a good win,” Reyna said. “It was good to end the camp like that.”