The USMNT came into Panama City flying high after two straight wins and outscoring their opponents 6-0 in the prior three halves of soccer. Unfortunately, that form was not to carry over into this game, with the US dropping all three points in their first loss in this World Cup qualifying cycle.
It was a heavily rotated squad for Gregg Berhalter, with 7 new players coming into the starting XI. Only Matt Turner, Walker Zimmerman, Yunus Musah, and Paul Arriola reprised their roles from the 2-0 win on Jamaica on Thursday.
The US got one of their best chances in the 4th minute, with Walker Zimmerman’s header being deflected over from a Kellyn Acosta corner kick. However, there was defending to do, with Shaq Moore making a clearance as the last man back, and Turner being forced to come out and claim a cross in the next few minutes. In minute 14, Panama had a big chance go begging, as a cross came in from the left wing and went untouched through the box, going out for a goal kick, and McKenzie being forced into a clearance inside the 6-yard box in the 18th minute.
The buildup looked very different from the Jamaica victory, with lots of hopeful long balls hit to no one in particular. Paul Arriola was guilty of one such wasted ball in the 22nd minute, although he was far from the only player to hit such a “pass”. Yunus Musah had a good dribbling run in the 25th minute, which led to a Lletget cross that was just out of Arriola’s reach. In minutes 27 and 28, Panama had two straight attempts at Olimpico goals from the corner, Turner missing the punch on the first but getting the second.
The fact that Panama could press with two and control the U.S.’s two CBs, GK, and 6 was a bit of a problem. pic.twitter.com/Mekk6dJiW6— Joseph Lowery (@joeclowery) October 11, 2021
Panama had a huge chance in the 34th minute, Turner forced into an instinctive one-hand save after a Kellyn Acosta giveaway, but the play was ruled offside. Turner came out to claim another cross in the 39th minute, and was forced into making a terrific save in the 45th due to his own bad touch which created an immediate giveaway. When the halftime whistle sounded, Panama was cutting the US open, and progressing through the midfield with ease.
There wasn’t much positive to take from the first half, other than Walker Zimmerman’s dominance.
Panama dominating possession in the first half -- and the USMNT failed to register one shot on target. pic.twitter.com/NkvwY23H9P— USMNT Only (@usmntonly) October 10, 2021
Berhalter opted to make two changes at halftime, bringing on Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams for Paul Arriola and Yunus Musah. But only nine minutes later, Panama got the winning goal from an Anibal Godoy header on a corner. Godoy slid into a small gap between Lletget and Zardes and headed home.
Panama had already put multiple corners right on Matt Turner.— Henry Bushnell (@HenryBushnell) October 10, 2021
USMNT zoned up and… ignored the three players closest to Turner/the goal.
Not a set piece expert, but this seems like an absolutely terrible way to defend a corner pic.twitter.com/P5XJ5YgKCK
Immediately following the goal, some good combination from Aaronson and Lletget earned the US a free kick outside the 18-yard box. Acosta went for goal, but pulled his shot wide left. US frustration was building as Panama got another shot off in the 59th, after Kellyn Acosta was outmuscled. Walker Zimmerman had a penalty shout in the 61st minute on a header that came from a corner earned by Bello and Aaronson’s good work down the left.
Berhalter made three changes in minute 67, bringing on Ricardo Pepi, Cristian Roldan, and DeAndre Yedlin for Zardes, Weah, and Shaq Moore. Gold Cup attacking firebrand Matthew Hoppe remained on the bench throughout the game, despite being fresh after not playing against Jamaica either. Pepi immediately registered a shot in the 70th minute after he was alive to a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area, but it rolled wide.
In the 76th, Panama received its first booking for a bad tackle on Kellyn Acosta. Acosta was then part of a head-to-head collision in the 80th that led to his head being wrapped up for the final moments of the game. The time-wasting was on in earnest in the 81st, with Panama employing its second stretcher of the night, with a third to follow minutes later. Turner was forced into another save at 90’, and the only further action was a pitch invader and two instances of two soccer balls on the field at once.
The game is notable for a number of statistical reasons:
- It ends the US’s 18-game unbeaten streak vs Concacaf foes, dating back nearly two full years.
- The US took only 5 shots, and failed to put a single one on target.
- 5 shots is the US’s fewest in 28 World Cup qualifiers, going back to 1-shot draw in the Azteca in 2013.
- 5 shots is the fewest in 40 games under Gregg Berhalter.
- The 0.22 xG is the team’s worst under Berhalter, with the previous low over twice as high (0.53).
- It is the US’s first-ever loss to Panama in World Cup qualifying.
- The starting attacker line combined for 0.04 xG (Zardes 0.00, Arriola 0.04, Weah 0.00)
- The US had 1 (one) possession start in the attacking third. That number was 8 on average in the previous four qualifiers.
The US now falls to second in Concacaf World Cup qualifying, even on points with Panama and leading Canada by one point. They face Costa Rica at home on Wednesday.
How the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table looks as it stands. pic.twitter.com/NZfAHXs53z— USMNT Only (@usmntonly) October 11, 2021
What did you think of tonight’s performances? How can these issues be addressed? Let us know in the comments.