USMNT player Walker Zimmerman gave a detailed insight into the team’s 1-0 defeat against Panama on Sunday, explaining that a lack of rhythm and defensive strength led to their first 2022 World Cup qualifying loss.
The defender did not hold back after the game, highlighting technical errors that he and the rest of the squad made during the contest.
Zimmerman quickly shifted to explain the importance of a victory against Costa Rica, as the USMNT slipped to second place behind North American rivals Mexico.
The top three nations of the CONCACAF table automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the fourth heads into the intercontinental playoffs.
“They tried to overload the six-yard box, put more numbers in closer to our goal, and tried to whip in a ball right on top of our goalie in the near zone,” said Zimmerman.
“I honestly haven't gotten a chance to look at it back, but it's a zone that we should be able to take care of. And it's something that we have to take pride in, how we defend set pieces.
”That should be a strength of this team, with our size, with our mentality. And that's a goal of ours, is to always be holding an advantage in the set-piece category, because that we certainly have the personnel to do that – to defend and hold a zero and then certainly create more opportunities on the attack.”
Head coach Gregg Berhalter admitted he approached the match against Panama with a new strategy that included benching seven starters, and he took full responsibility afterwards when it proved unsuccessful.
Zimmerman went on to discuss the new tactics that ultimately led to the team’s demise.
“Part of what we wanted to do was getting the ball and driving into that space along the channels and try and commit the opposing winger to either go to the outside back – in that case, I can find the pocket there with the No. 8 – or if he sticks on the 8 then I can bypass to the fullback, we can try and start a wing progression,” he said.
Zimmerman added: “It just felt like one of those days where we couldn't really get into rhythm of breaking them down consistently. And that's something that we need to take more pride in, and whether that's our movements off the ball, whether that's our composure on the ball, we need to have the confidence to play. And it's something that we were not at our best tonight.”
The defender then shifted focus to Wednesday’s match against Costa Rica, a huge game for the USMNT as they strive to maintain a comfortable position on the table. Another loss would put the American side in immediate risk before the next round of qualifiers, where they face rivals and table leaders Mexico.
“It's massive, it's a really big game. We all have to be up for it. There's no other option,” said Zimmerman.
“You look at your home games, those are the games that you have to win. And they become increasingly more important when you don't get a result on the road. So for us, it's about making sure everyone [has a] short-term memory, we move on, we digest this quickly.
”And we make sure that we get three points at home against Costa Rica. And that'll be a six-point window and puts us in a spot where we're ready to move forward into the next one.”