Its games like this that make you wonder about the U.S. soccer team. With a group C win in their grasp the Yanks dropped a shameful 2-1 result to Panama, putting the team in jeopardy of having a much tougher road to the finals.
While the U.S. failed to take advantage Saturday night, their neighbors to the north took care of business against Guadeloupe early with a 1-0 victory to take a big step towards assuring passage to the next round.
USA bottoms out
Seemingly over-looking Panama, the U.S. came out flat for their Saturday night showdown. After failing to start with their foot on the gas the U.S. is now facing an uncertain Gold Cup future.
Things happened fast in Tampa. Panama came out with energy and played the U.S. well, taking early control in the midfield. The U.S. was slow on the ball and was defending loosely. In plain terms the team was simply not sharp. Before they could wake from their extended pre-game nap they found themselves in what would prove to be an insurmountable 2-0 hole at half-time.
While the overall play was bad, the defense – especially Clarence Goodson and Tim Ream – were the main culprits in the first half. In the 19th minute a Gabriel Gomez cross was headed on goal by Eduardo Dasent. Tim Howard swatted the shot away but Clarence Goodson was facing goal and whiffed on his attempted clearance. Luis Tejada was there to take advantage and put Panama up 1-0.
After a push from the U.S. – led by Fulham ace Clint Dempsey who was a bright spot for the U.S. on Saturday night – the Panamanians got their winner when Ream ill-advisedly swung through a ball and cut Blas Perez down in the box. Gomez stepped up and deposited the penalty kick to send Panama to victory.
The U.S. came out in the second half with more energy and pulled a goal back in the 68th minute when Goodson redeemed his early gaff by heading home a redirected Landon Donovan free kick. Despite a rally the equalizer wasn’t there to be found and the U.S. find themselves in second place in group C.
Canada gets back in the mix
Much like the result they gave up to the U.S. in the first game, Canada put in a workmanlike effort Saturday afternoon. Despite getting the better of the play and having a man advantage for 87 minutes, it was a Dwayne De Rosario penalty kick that sent the Maple Leafs to the full three points and gives them a realistic chance to finish second and an outside chance to win group C.
Helping the Canadians was a third minute red card to Jean-Luc Lambourde for a studs up tackle on Real Salt Lake’s Will Johnson. Despite having the man advantage Canada wasn’t able to put the Gwada Boys away in the first half.
Headed towards what would have been a disappointing draw, the Maple Leafs got an opening when Ali Gerba was brought down from behind by Stephane Zubar in the 51st minute. Talisman and spot kick ace De Rosario stepped up and calmly slotted the ball past the Guadeloupe ‘keeper to send the Maple Leafs to the win.
With Saturday’s results Panama leads the group with six points, ahead of the U.S. and Canada (three points) and the eliminated Guadeloupe. Despite the standings the group is there for all three teams. Panama is on a +2 goal differential, just one ahead of the U.S. (+1) and three ahead of Canada (-1).
Tuesday should be a wild night with the U.S. facing Guadeloupe and Canada and Panama squaring off.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com and contributes to Soccerlens.com during the Gold Cup. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.