USMNT tops Panama, gets first win under new coach Gregg Berhalter

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Djordje Mihailovic (Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The newest era in U.S. men’s soccer has begun and it started with a resounding 3-0 win over Panama on Sunday at State Farm Stadium.

In coach Gregg Berhalter’s debut, the USMNT built an early first-half lead and added two late goals in the second.

After several shots on goal, the US finally capitalized on the playmaking ability of its youngsters to take an early lead. Corey Baird was able to continue the play after Gyasi Zardes was taken out. Djordje Mihailovic finished off the pass for the 1-0 advantage.

Mihailovic, who tore his ACL in the 2017 MLS Cup playoffs with the Chicago Fire, along with Baird made their international debuts.

“It was a testament to all my hard work over the past 12-14 months,” Mihailovic said of his goal.

Walker Zimmerman scored his third international goal. He pushed the team’s lead to 2-0 after heading a Nick Lima cross in the 79th minute. Lima, who was named the Man of the Match, was one of 11 players to make their first appearance with the national team.

Christian Ramirez, who also had his first cap, scored the final goal five minutes after coming off the bench. The 27-year-old forward tapped in the ball in the 88th minute to secure the US’s win.

“The shutout was super important,” Zimmerman said. “As soon as we scored a second goal we said, ‘Hey, lock it in, everyone stay tuned.’ We wanted to get more, but also make sure we keep it zero.”

The defense was rarely tested in the first half. Panama had just four shots on goal compared to the US’s 10. Zack Steffen, who was returning in goal after six caps in 2018, had one save through the first 45 minutes.

Steffen had another two saves in the second half, including one 55 minutes into the match that could have easily tied the game. He was replaced in favor of Sean Johnson in the 73rd minute.

The US will now get ready to face Costa Rica on Saturday in San Jose, California.