MLS Player of the Week: Week 6 – Jaime Penedo

LA Galaxy needed to beat the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night after losing their previous two but their 1-0 victory would not have been possible without goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.

Goalkeeper’s don’t always get enough praise but Penedo was excellent on Sunday and takes this week’s MLSGB Player of the Week award.

The Panamanian stopper was making his third start of the new MLS season after injuries and international duties have prevented him getting as much time between the Galaxy sticks as some fans would have hoped.

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He kept his first clean sheet of the year in the win over Western Conference rivals Seattle, and put in one of the best performances of his career, making a whopping ten saves on the way to victory.

Galaxy would not have won without him as he made several amazing stops to prevent certain goals. His most impressive save came in the second-half as he denied Andy Rose from point-blank range, and Penedo admitted after the game that he didn’t even know how he stopped it.

Highlights: Jaime Penedo in fine form as Galaxy beat Sounders (via LA Galaxy on YouTube):

“I would honestly say I don’t know how I saved it,” he said. “The play was right in front of me, and it just bounced off of me, and if you’d asked me, I would guess I never would have stopped it.”

Penedo has now made the fourth-highest number of saves in MLS this season, despite playing just three times, and the Galaxy will hope he can build on his incredible display against Sporting Kansas City next weekend.

What did you make of Jaime Penedo’s performance this weekend? Does he deserve to be named Player of the Week?

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USMNT end five game winless streak with 2-0 victory over Panama

The rot has been stopped. Jurgen Klinsmann and the US Men’s National Team ended a five-game winless streak with a comfortable 2-0 victory against Panama on Sunday.

First-half goals from Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey saw the USA record their first win since a 1-0 friendly victory against the Czech Republic back in September.

Panama were far from threatening but it’s important that the USMNT got a win under their belt and the second clean-sheet in seven since the World Cup will also please Klinsmann.

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The 3-5-2 system we saw deployed in the first-half against Chile last time out was not tried again as the German coach opted to start with a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Jermaine Jones played in defence again but he looked a lot better than he did against the Chileans and that is a project that is certain to continue through 2015.

Michael Bradley started in a deeper midfield role and controlled the game well. He opened the scoring with a ridiculously good corner that looped over LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and into the net.

Michael Bradley’s goal against Panama (via US Soccer on YouTube):

Gyasi Zardes made his first start for the USMNT and impressed throughout as the Galaxy forward thrived at StubHub Center in the USA shirt.

Zardes played a key role in the second goal of the game as he burst into the middle of the field before threading a perfect ball to Clint Dempsey. The Seattle Sounders forward then rounded Penedo before slotting the ball into an empty net.

Clint Dempsey’s goal against Panama (via US Soccer on YouTube):

Players will now return to their clubs as the new Major League Soccer season gets underway in less than a month.

One concern to take from the game is that DeAndre Yedlin limped off and headed straight down the tunnel. Spurs fans will hope that it is nothing serious as the pacey fullback has yet to make his debut for the Premier League club since completing his move in January.

The next time we see the USMNT in action will be at the end of March as Klinsmann’s side take on Denmark and Switzerland in a pair of tricky fixtures.

What did you make of the USMNT’s performance against Panama on Sunday?

International Preview and Prediction: USA vs Panama

USA vs Panama – International Friendly

Venue: StubHub Center – Sunday, February 8 – 9:00PM GMT (4:00PM ET)

Match Odds: USA 4/7 – Draw 11/4 – Panama 5/1

The US Men’s National Team take on Panama in their second friendly of the year and will look to record their first win in six after last week’s 3-2 loss to Chile made it three defeats on the bounce.

Jurgen Klinsmann tried a 3-5-2 system in that game but there was a lot to work on in terms of the formation and it will be interesting to see if he is bold enough to start with that against Panama on Sunday.

Late goals continue to haunt the USA and they conceded twice in the final 25 minutes against Chile to lose the match, despite leading 2-1 at halftime. They have taken the lead in four of their last five but have not won in any of those matches.

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Fitness is a valid excuse at this stage of the year with Major League Soccer players only just returning to action, and 20 of the 23 players in the squad play in MLS now so they are yet to reach full match fitness.

Klinsmann has hinted that the 3-5-2 system will be used again by saying: “Definitely, we want to keep developing it, because we want to use it when the moment is there and maybe we have the players for it. And therefore, it’s a card to keep working on.”

USA Predicted Lineup vs Panama

Possible USMNT lineup vs Panama (via Lineupbuilder.com)

A friendly means substitutions can help things though and Klinsmann will expect to see his side get back to winning ways against a Panama side that is set to play their first game of 2015.

The CONCACAF side are 28 places lower than the USA in the FIFA World Rankings but will be looking to kickstart 2015 in the same form as they ended last year as they only lost one of their last seven in 2014.

USA vs Panama head-to-head record: Played 14 – USA 11 – Draws 2 – Panama 1

Three MLS players have been called up to the squad for the game against the USMNT as LA Galaxy’s Jaime Penedo, FC Dallas striker Blas Perez and Colorado Rapids forward Gabriel Torres will all expect to feature.

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If he starts, Penedo will be playing in a familiar environment as LA Galaxy’s StubHub Center will host the game.

Another Galaxy player hoping to feature will be Gyasi Zardes and the young striker will hope to start after looking sharp when coming off the bench against Chile last week.

USA’s last five: D/D/L/L/L

Panama’s last five: W/W/L/W/D

Key Stat: Panama have only beaten the USA once in 14 previous meetings – a 2-1 win in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2011.

Key Player: Gyasi Zardes – The LA Galaxy striker showed promise on his debut against Chile and will be pushing for a start. Expect him to make a difference if he is given the time.

Score Prediction: USA 3–1 Panama The USMNT to get back to winning ways with an improved performance back on home soil.