After demolishing Honduras 6-0 the US Men’s National Team headed to Panama full of confidence and looking to get a point, or even better, steal three. After the draw between Honduras and Costa Rica, and with Mexico winning their match against Trinidad and Tobago, the US stood in fifth place in the Hex with the opportunity to move into third with a win or fourth with a draw.
Leading up to the match the US sent home Jordan Morris, Michael Orozco, Sebastian Lletget, and John Brooks with injuries. One more injury was revealed when the lineup was released and Geoff Cameron was out of Bruce Arena’s squad. Replacing Cameron at right back was Graham Zusi, Tim Ream stepped in for John Brooks at center back, and Jermaine Jones played in central midfield in place of Sebastian Lletget.
The first half was characterized by physical play featuring Panama’s players pulling US players’ jerseys, kicking Americans when they touched the ball, and Los Canaleros clogging midfield passing lanes to effectively disrupt US possession. Panama was content to hang back and try to strike on the counter, but failed to produce much when they broke towards the US goal.
In the 39th minute a moment of individual brilliance from Christian Pulisic opened the scoring. The American pressed a Panama defender who failed to clear a long pass played into the 18 yard box and lost the ball. Pulisic gained possession, shook his initial defender, turned to goal, and when Roman Torres stepped up to defend him, the American passed to Clint Dempsey who shot past keeper Jaime Penedo to make the score 1-0.
Panama equalized shortly before the half when they channeled their inner-Iceland on a long throw in to the box that deflected off of US defender Tim Ream and into the path of Panama midfielder Gabriel Gomez.
The second half had more life as each team pressed for the win. In the 58th minute Christian Pulisic burst forward with the ball at his feet running nearly 2⁄3 the length of the field to set up a shot for Jermaine Jones.
Tim Howard was pressed into action when he made an excellent save off of a shot from Panama forward Gabriel Torres just before the hour mark. It seemed like Panama might score again as they continued to try to find space behind the US defense.
From there the game settled with Panama pushing forward but with little to show for their offensive possessions though they did occasionally press Tim Howard into action.
With each team tiring in the tropical heat, Panama was unable to enforce their midfield no-man’s land but the US failed to generate much more than hopeful crosses that were easily cleared by their opponents.
The game came to an end at 1-1. After a disastrous first round of qualifiers last November, the US met its goal of winning four points from two games.