Following the 6-0 clinic Bruce Arena’s USMNT hung on Honduras, the team needed a road result in Panama. Three more points for a win would have been terrific, but one for a draw would be acceptable. And a 1-1 draw it was.
Some might describe it as a street fight disguised as a soccer match. It was ugly soccer. It was physical. It was a challenging test to see if Panama could break the U.S. resolve. It was nothing like the game four days earlier when Arena’s team could do no wrong and Clint Dempsey led the way with three goals.
“Every game is a different game,” Arena said following Tuesday’s 1-1 draw. “Today, the environmental conditions, field, officiating, opponent, were all different than the last game we played. We by no means expect this game to look like the game on Friday and, in fact, we expected it to look the way it looked today.
“A very good team in Mexico came in here and didn’t score a goal and got a point. Panama has proven to be a difficult team to play at home.”
There were no surprises. Arena was well aware of how dangerous Panama could be, and the atmosphire was fueled by the memory of the last time Panama hosted the USA in a qualifier four years ago. Graham Zusi scored in added time for a U.S. goal that meant nothing since the Americans had already qualified. But it knocked Panama out of a World Cup berth.
This game was physical, and Panama did not hold back. Arena put a back line on the field that had never before played together. Tim Ream and Omar Gonzales anchored the middle with Zusi on the right back and Jorge Villafana on the left. Geoff Cameron was left on the bench after starting against Honduras.
“It was just a rough game,” Arena said. “Panama was determined to be physical, play hard, and, to their credit, they through us off our game a little bit.”
The goal Panama came off a long throw-in that wasn’t well covered. However, off the run of play the back line proved to be up to the challenge.
Christian Pulisic was outstanding, and did all the hard work that led to Dempsey’s goal. When Arena went to the beach in the second half, he had to be pleased with the effort of Kellyn Acosta and Paul Arriola.
While the goal was disappointing and the actual soccer played was solid, and Arena did find positives. He was very satisfied by the play of Christian Pulisic, who set up Dempsey on the game’s lone goal. Weeks ago it was uncertain if Dempsey would be called in after returning from heart issues. His four goals in two games drew him within one of Landon Donovan’s all-time MNT goal-scoring record.
Arena’s group will get back to the business of qualifying for Russia, and the roster may be quite different from the one he had for the win and the draw. The MNT was missing a number of potential starters due to injuries. Next up will be a home meeting with Trinidad and Tobago, and the road trip to Mexico City and Azteca stadium.
With six more games to play in the Hexagonal there are 18 more points to be had before the regional qualifiers are settled.
“We’re obviously in better shape with four points in two games,” Arena said. “We’ve made progress. Every game in qualifying, the remaining six games, are going to be critical for every team. Every team is in there. Mexico is on top, so they have the jump on everyone.”
- The U.S. Men’s National Team continued its unbeaten run in Panama City where it is now 3-0-2 while holding an 11-1-5 all-time advantage against Panama.
- The MNT is an unbeaten 5-0-2 against Panama in World Cup Qualifying and 2-0-2 when playing at Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
- Clint Dempsey recorded his 18h all-time World Cup Qualifying goal, furthering his lead as the MNT’s all-time leader in Qualifying goals scored.
- The goal also pushed Dempsey’s overall goal total to 56, placing him just one behind Landon Donovan (57) for the USA’s all-time lead.
- Dempsey now has four career international goals vs. Panama, and with 38 caps is also now just two World Cup Qualifying appearances shy of Donovan (40) for the MNT’s all-time lead.
- Just a day shy of the one-year anniversary of his MNT debut, Christian Pulisic started for the U.S. in his seventh World Cup Qualifying appearance. The 18-year-old leads the team with five assists in 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, while his three goals tie him with Bobby Wood for third on the team’s Road to Russia.
- U.S. MNT head coach Bruce Arena made three changes to the starting XI that faced Honduras on Friday, inserting Jermaine Jones, Tim Ream and Graham Zusi.
- The MNT starting XI had a combined 197 appearances and 45 goals all-time in FIFA World Cup Qualifying.
- Altidore, Dempsey and Zusi are the only three starters to have previously played a World Cup Qualifier in Panama. Altidore and Zusi appeared in the 3-2 win on Oct. 15, 2013, while Dempsey was a substitute in the MNT’s 3-0 victory on June 8, 2005.
- After serving a one-game suspension during Friday’s 6-0 win against Panama, Jones earned his 17th World Cup Qualifying appearance and 69th cap.
- Ream earned his fourth career World Cup Qualifying cap and first start since a 0-0 draw at Trinidad & Tobago on Nov. 17, 2015.
- Having made his World Cup Qualifying debut against Honduras, Jorge Villafaña started at left back again tonight in his fourth-straight appearance for the MNT.
- The U.S. used all three of its subs vs. Panama with Alejandro Bedoya coming on for Darlington Nagbe in the 69th minute, Kellyn Acosta replacing Jermaine Jones in the 75th and Paul Arriola entering in place of Jozy Altidore in the 82nd.
- Set to face Panama once again during this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, the U.S. has twice defeated the Central American nation in the tournament’s championship game, winning on penalty kicks following win the 2005 crown and earning a 1-0 win to lift the trophy in 2013.
- Panama’s only win against the United States came via a 2-1 victory during the CONCACAF Gold Cup Group Stage on June 11, 2011.
– U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report –
Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Panama
Date: March 28, 2017
Competition: 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia – Qualifier
Venue: Estadio Rommel Fernandez; Panama City, Panama
Kickoff: 9 p.m. CT
Weather: 80 degrees; Mostly Clear
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 0 1
PAN 1 0 1
USA – Clint Dempsey (Christian Pulisic) 39th minute
PAN – Gabriel Gomez 43
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 19-Graham Zusi, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 14-Tim Ream, 2-Jorge Villafaña; 10-Christian Pulisic, 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 13-Jermaine Jones (23-Kellyn Acosta, 75), 15-Darlington Nagbe (11-Alejandro Bedoya, 69); 8-Clint Dempsey, 17-Jozy Altidore (9-Paul Arriola, 82)
Subs not used: 5-Matt Besler, 6-Dax McCarty, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 12-David Bingham, 16-Sacha Kljestan, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 20-Geoff Cameron, 21-Walker Zimmerman, 22-Nick Rimando
Head coach: Bruce Arena
PAN : 1-Jaime Penedo, 13-Adolfo Machado; 23-Felipe Baloy (capt.), 5-Roman Torres, 17-Luis Ovalle; 6-Gabriel Gomez (21-Amilcar Henriquez, 80), 20-Anibal Godoy, 11-Armando Cooper, 19-Alberto Quintero (8-Edgar Yoel Barcenas, 75); 9-Gabriel Torres (22-Abdiel Arroyo, 83), 18-Luis Tejeda
Subs not used: 12-Jose Calderon, 2-Michael Amir Murillo, 3-Jan Carlos Vargas, 4-Roderick Miller, 14-Miguel Camargo, 15-Eric Davis, 16-Josiel Nunez, 10-Alejandro Taylor
Head coach: Hernán Darío Gómez
Stats Summary: USA / PAN
Shots: 7 / 19
Shots on Goal: 3 / 4
Saves: 3 / 2
Corner Kicks: 4 / 4
Fouls: 10 / 14
Offside: 0 / 2
Referee: Cesar Ramos (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Marvin Torrentera (MEX)
Assistant Referee 2: Miguel Hernandez (MEX)
Fourth Official: Erick Miranda (MEX)