Eddie Johnson celebrates his goal with Clint Dempsey, left, during Team… (Dan Levine / EPA )
SEATTLE — Juergen Klinsmann has tried out more combinations than a safecracker is his two years as coach of the U.S. national soccer team, starting 28 lineups in 29 games.
Tuesday he found one that worked.
With Jozy Altidore scoring late in the first half and Eddie Johnson early in the second, the U.S. dominated Panama, 2-0, in a World Cup qualifier before a crowd of 40,847 at CenturyLink Field.
"The entire game, we were in control," Klinsmann said. "Every area on the field, the guys did their job. They executed. Overall a complete performance."
And the most complete performance in Klinsmann's tenure leaves the Americans (3-1-1) in control of CONCACAF qualifying. Halfway through the 10-game regional tournament they lead the six-team competition with 10 points, two ahead of Costa Rica and Mexico.
The U.S. rode there behind a reinvigorated attack led by Altidore, who has scored in three consecutive games. But it was far from a one-man show. Clint Dempsey and Johnson kept Panama honest with a number of threatening runs; Geoff Cameron set up Johnson's score with an impressive 30-yard pass; Fabian Johnson proved dangerous with crosses from the left wing; and Michael Bradley drove the offense from midfield.
Add it up and the U.S. now leads CONCACAF in goals as well as in points. Almost unnoticed is the fact the U.S. has allowed just one goal in its last four qualifiers.
"They grow into that role," Klinsmann said of his back line, which was starting together for the third time in nine days. "They fine-tune things. More playing times, a better understanding develops."
Playing on a thin grass carpet laid over CenturyLink's unforgiving FieldTurf surface — redecorating that cost U.S. Soccer more than $80,000 — Klinsmann's team was frustrated on several early chances.
But it finally broke through in the 36th minute on a counterattack that began with a long Bradley run into the Panama end. With Dempsey racing down the middle to draw the defense, Bradley slipped a pass to the left wing for Fabian Johnson, who sent the ball across the front of the net to Altidore for the easy goal.
The U.S. doubled its lead eight minutes after intermission with Cameron sending a long ball over the top to Eddie Johnson, timing his run perfectly. Johnson beat an offside trap and broke into the box alone, settled the ball with one touch, then tucked a left-footed shot into the net for his 11th goal in 16 World Cup qualifiers.
Both Cameron and Eddie Johnson came off the bench for Klinsmann, with Cameron starting in place of Jermaine Jones, who was sidelined with a concussion, and Johnson filling in for Graham Zusi, who was suspended for two yellow cards.
Another Bradley-to-Fabian Johnson pass in the 80th minute should have led to a third goal, but DaMarcus Beasley, who took the ball on a feed from Altidore deep in the 18-yard box, saw his shot ring off the goal post.