Magically all is well again in USMNTland. Clint Dempsey is back, Michael Bradley found his stroke, and an 18 year old showed he could be the difference maker when the U.S. returns to the world stage. The U.S. moved from dead last in the Hex to fourth and everyone can exhale and put an end to the nightmares. Next up Panama, a country smaller than the city of Philadelphia and a team that looked fragile against Trinidad & Tobago Friday night.
Examining the prior tangles with Panama won’t convince you that the instantly hot U.S. engine won’t motor right through the Panama Canal and collect another three points. The U.S. is 11-1-4 (W-L-D) in their sixteen meetings and Panama has had an extremely difficult time scoring against the U.S. who has collected 9 clean sheets and allowed more than one goal just twice. Those two games where the U.S. allowed more than one goal are worth revisiting.
The first came in the group stage of the 2011 Gold Cup when Panama got an own goal and scored on a penalty to beat the U.S. 2-1. The U.S. exacted revenge in the knockout stage of that same tournament with a 1-0 win. It’s the lone time that Panama has ever beaten the U.S. in regulation.
The second game was in 2013 and Panamanians will remember this game bitterly as they were minutes away from keeping their World Cup hopes alive. Panama took a 2-1 lead in the 83rd minute but relinquished two stoppage-time goals to Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson and lost 3-2. The result knocked them from contention for Brazil.
That most recent qualifier was another win in what has been a dominant series for the USMNT. In six prior qualifying matchups dating back to 2004 the U.S. is 5-0-1 and has outscored Panama 17-3. On the road in qualifying the U.S. is 2-0-1 with seven goals and three against.
The most recent results against Panama haven’t been as stellar as the Panamian sides have been steadily improving over the years. The last two matchups have resulted in 1-1 draws on American soil. The latter match American fans will remember as a horrid performance by the red, white and blue in the third place game of the Gold Cup. Panama took third place honors in penalties.
So while the U.S. has dominated Panama over their history the most recent competitive matches have been extremely close. Panama has a sour taste from the last time the U.S. men visited, and the U.S. should have sour taste from that third place game. As we sit here now the USMNT is rolling and Panama looked pedestrian in Port of Spain, but what is beautiful about soccer is that humility and redemption are handed out in generous portions.