The USMNT defeated Panama 6-2 in Austria on Monday with braces from Nicholas Gioacchini (age 20) and Sebastian Soto (20) complimented by strikes from Giovanni Reyna (18) and Sebastian Lletget.
Beating Panama isn’t the be-all and end-all in international football — unless you’re England, then you’re winning the 2018 World Cup — but it's the perfect barometer for how this USMNT (fielding its second-youngest starting lineup of all time) will handle itself come next summer’s CONCACAF Octagonal.
The early signs are more than promising, especially with a midfield three of Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah and the play of wingers like Reyna (and eventually Christian Pulisic) complimented by overlapping runs from Sergiño Dest and Reggie Cannon.
There’s the large question mark of an undisputed striker, but the 20-year-old Kansas City native Gioacchini — who plays his club ball in France’s Ligue 2 with Caen — answered the call today with a brace in only his second cap, and Soto — on loan at Telstar from Norwich – jumped off the bench to make a late impression with two goals of his own.
It was an awful start for the U.S. when, after just eight minutes, Alejandro Yearwood measured a deep cross with Reyna applying zero pressure. The ball perfectly found José Fajardo, who took advantage of Matt Miazga being absolutely nowhere and Tim Ream not being quick enough to cover.
1-0 Panama, and that section of USMNT support on Twitter that thinks they have the biggest and best soccer brains ever conceived had a field day.
Panama strikes early vs the USMNT pic.twitter.com/n1VIwcA3Ew
But the U.S. responded 10 minutes later after Musah was fouled on the edge of Panama’s area — losing a contact lens in the process — and Reyna stepped forward for his first senior goal.
Here it is! At 18 years, 3 days, Gio Reyna becomes the third youngest goal scorer in USMNT history! #USAvPAN pic.twitter.com/eadp1tNsWD— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) November 16, 2020
The floodgates opened with two more goals in eight minutes. First, it was Gioacchini following up a Uly Llanez shot.
Nicholas Gioacchini is the first to follow-up Uly Llanez's effort. 2-1 #USMNTpic.twitter.com/H8z09I6c0g— The18 (@the18com) November 16, 2020
Then it was a fantastic move involving Adams, McKennie and Miazga that was again finished by Gioacchini.
Adams --> McKennie --> Miazga --> Gioacchini. pic.twitter.com/oJyRKBFLJT— The18 (@the18com) November 16, 2020
Things got a bit unfriendly from there with a barrage of yellow cards for both teams, but the U.S. could’ve had a fourth shortly after the hour mark after Cannon’s pass in the area was obviously handled.
Gioacchini took the resulting penalty in search of his hat trick, but he probably won’t be taking any more penalties for the U.S.
¡POR AQUÍ NO!La tapada de Orlando 'Kuty' Mosquera en el penal. #EstoyMareaRoja pic.twitter.com/H181OaAZMa
— Deportes RPC (@deportes_rpc) November 16, 2020
Panama pulled one back in the 79th minute with the entire U.S. backline signaling for offside, but Fajardo lashed his effort inside the near post.
Panama makes it a 1-goal game pic.twitter.com/LwWXq4Rmto
It didn’t matter as Richard Ledezma found Soto to restore the two-goal advantage.
ANOTHER debut goal.Sebastian Soto makes it 4-2, @USMNT pic.twitter.com/kdWwqU9IUm
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 16, 2020
The scoreline quickly grew unreasonable from there after Lletget was discovered on the edge of the six-yard box by Cannon.
Make that for the @USMNT! Sebastian Lletget turns home Reggie Cannon's cross. pic.twitter.com/8PiRMLmSRd
And then Soto scored in stoppage time off another Ledezma feed.
One final goal on the night! @Sebastian9Soto bags his second! pic.twitter.com/CyxKaVUltQ— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) November 16, 2020
Next up for the U.S. is a potential camp in December or January that will be comprised of mainly MLS-based players. Things get real serious next summer with the Nations League finals, 2022 World Cup qualifying and the Gold Cup.