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USMNT rally to beat Panama late, save Mexico’s World Cup hopes

US Men's National team vs. Panama

Photo by Michael Janosz/


The U.S. Men’s National Team pulled off some late-game heroics against Panama, and they saved more than just themselves.

The U.S. scored twice in second-half stoppage time to erase a one-goal deficit and beat Panama, 3-2, in a dramatic World Cup qualifier at a rainy Estadio Rommel Fernandez on Tuesday night. Graham Zusi scored the equalizer in the 92nd minute off a cross from substitute Brad Davis and Aron Johannsson netted the winner a minute later with a near-perfect individual effort against the stunned Canaleros.

The result not only saw the Hexagonal-leading Americans match the record point total they set in CONCACAF’s final round of qualifying during the 2006 World Cup cycle, but it also eliminated a heartbroken Panamanian team and saved Mexico from astonishingly missing out on the World Cup. El Tri lost to Costa Rica, 2-1, on Tuesday night and would have been eliminated from qualifying had the U.S. not scored the two late goals.

Zusi and Johannsson’s strikes for a U.S. squad filled with reserves erased two separate leads that Panama had, including a late one that looked to assure that the hosts would move into CONCACAF’s fourth-place spot in the Hexagonal and face New Zealand in next month’s two-legged play-off.

After seeing Gabriel Torres’ 18th-minute opener canceled out by a Michael Orozco header in the 64th, the Canaleros jumped out in front again when Luis Tejada poked the ball into the back of the net in the 84th minute of a match they had to win in order to have any shot at reaching Brazil next summer.

Following a low cross from the right that U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan got a slight touch to but couldn’t steer clear of the center of the penalty area, Tejada outraced the U.S. defense to score a crucial goal that brought Panama’s World Cup hopes back to life. The strike sent the Panamanian players and their fans into a frenzy, as they knew they were on the brink of moving past Mexico in the Hexagonal table due to fourth-placed El Tri trailing Costa Rica in a qualifier played simultaneously.

Panama’s joy turned into despair in stoppage time, however.

With only seconds remaining before Panama could officially celebrate advancing to next month’s play-off, Davis hit a gorgeous cross from the left that Zusi met and did well to head home in the second minute of stoppage time. The Canaleros were punished for questionably continuing to send numbers forward against the Americans instead of dropping them back in an effort to preserve the lead.

Whatever self-belief Panama still had at that moment in the match went up in a cloud of smoke seconds later after Johannsson netted his first goal at the international level. Johannsson, who was inserted by U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann in the 62nd minute, hit a hard low shot into the bottom corner that Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo could do little about.

The writing was on the wall for the heartbroken Panamanian players and some of them burst into tears and had to be consoled by the Americans following the sound of the final whistle.

The U.S., who played in a 4-2-3-1 formation in the match, finished their successful Hexagonal campaign with a 7-1-2 record. The 22 points they earned from those qualifiers match the record point total the Americans set during the 2006 World Cup qualifying cycle. The U.S. also finished atop the group back then.

Klinsmann’s side’s qualifying campaign may have ended with a successful road victory, but they are not done playing in 2013 just yet. The U.S. will partake in two road friendlies in Scotland and Austria in November to close out the year.


What do you think of the United States’ 3-2 win over Panama? Was this the wildest night of sports that you’ve experienced? Did you find yourself rooting for Panama so as to see Mexico eliminated?Β Which American players impressed/disappointed you?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I really love to see both Boyd and Aron start, in next friendlies.

    I could see Aron playing like Donovan/Dempsey role behind Boyd vs Scotland.

  2. Evans struggled at times against Quintero but he didn’t have really the kind of shocking lapses we saw with Castillo. When things go wrong with him, you might as well just blow up the whole backline because somebody’s gonna score. Considering the depth issue at right back, I’d say that Evans needs to be on the next few rosters but I wouldn’t mind not seeing Castillo again. DMB or FJ, either way you’re fine.

  3. Am I the only one who has been impressed with Aron Johannsson’s pinpoint passing so far? The finish on the goal was great but I’ve watched him start a couple attacks in the last two games with some precision passes to the wings that were scintillating. He’s going to be fun to watch.

    • Yeah, some folks sees him only as a striker, in reality his linking up game is superb, the way he sees the field is impressive. I said all along AJ should be our SS (Dempsey’s role), maybe not this cycle, but for sure the next cycle.

  4. USA on top AGAIN!

    It was a dead first half for the USA, I don’t want to criticize but Jozy was like the invisible man out there and the defense lack support at times but in the end the win is what matters and also we gotta give props to Johannsson who did it all on his own…aside from the pass by Boyd but hey the kid has got talent and that goal in the final seconds was brilliant! I hope Klinsmann calls him up for the remaining games because I really think he deserves a trip to Brazil.

    • Johann did well, but he did not do it “all on his own.”

      Boyd’s pass created a 2v2 and sacha’s overlapping run froze the pressure defender for a half second allowing johann to cut in and hit through a narrow window.

      Textbook combination play.

  5. My quick notes to those who don’t care:

    1. Strikers: Let’s have perspective on Boyd and Aron – it took the better part of two years for Jozy to learn and excel in Klinsi’s system. Any lack of cohesion with those two and the rest of the team will be ironed out with time.

    2. Mix: Mix is a fantastic creative midfielder. He just doesn’t bring the nose for goal we need in the shadow striker/hole role. I think he’s far more creative than Dempsey, and actually looked like he worked better with Jozy, but Dempsey scores; and in that position we need a goal scorer. Mix had a few opportunities to unleash his cannon but chose to pass. Saying that, I think Mix had a solid 7 game; his touches and passing were spot on.

    3. Sascha, Zusi, Castillo, Evans, and Bedoya all did their best to convince Klinsi not to take them to Brazil. What awful performances.

    4. Evans: I think his play will encourage Klinsi to take a look at Lichaj and Chandler again in November. Please, please, please.

    5. Guzan: What an awful night. It wasn’t career-ending by any shot, but the cries to see him usurp Howard will be a little quieter now. Call it nerves, call it the wet surface, call it the moment, he played poorly.

    6. Klinsi: What a half-time maestro.

    • I’m not sure why we need goals from the second striker spot. If mixx can get ten assists from that spot isnt that as good as clint’s ten goals? Plus it’s not like mixx can’t score. Dempseys a great player and needs to be on the field. Nonetheless mixx is also proving to be pretty valuable in the middle of the pitch.

    • Goodson and the CBs gave you a couple reasons to keep shopping there. I was pleased with the fightback but felt like the game reflected a pattern whenever Goodson is around. 2-2 Russia. 2-1 Honduras. On and on. When do we learn.

    • Obviously Zusi didn’t have a great all around game, but I think it’s worth something that he showed the killer instinct to get an all-important goal in stoppage time. And as far as Guzan, I can’t think of a mistake besides the second goal where he should have at least parried it away from the middle of the box, though admittedly that was a big mistake. To be clear I’m not calling for Guzan to replace Howard just yet, but I think saying he had an “awful night” is a little much. And Kliestjan? Why do you think he had a bad game? In style he’s the closest we have to Bradley, and when Bradley is out that’s who I want to replace him. Mix is similar, but has less defensive bite, not a box-to-box guy like Bradley.

      On an unrelated note, does anyone know who got the captain’s armband after Jozy subbed out?

    • Agree except for (3). Sacha and Castillo were both strong. Sacha had a nice 58/64 passing line with 8 recoveries (go take a look at the distribution on the chalkboard at – Good movement of the ball all over the pitch). I think a better understanding of the role Klinsi asked him to play would benefit both our analyses, that said, I see no reason why the guy that out touched all other center midfielders and had a wonderful passing night gets the grade “awful” from you.

      Same goes for Castillo, 62/68 passing (very strong for an outside back), very involved down the left (114 touches). Crossing was a little lacking (only one successful – probably the one Boyd skied off his head).

      Both these guys had performances that merit consideration for the final 23.

    • Guzan had an awful night? Please explain how. PLEASE!! People are so quick to criticize everything for the sake of criticizing that they don’t stop to think about what they’re saying. I don’t know if you were just reaching or didn’t know what you were talking about or maybe a combination of the two but Guzan did NOT have “an awful night”. Awful? Yeah, ok.

      And no, the cries to see him usurp Howard will not be “a little quieter”. He *IS* going to succeed Howard, you do realize that yes? It IS going to happen. Who else do you propose usurp Howard? Rimando? Hamid? Johnson? Whenever Guzan has been called up, have ANY of those been the #2 over Guzan? Yeahhhhh. Let’s get real. Don’t go nega-mongering just because…let’s try to make some sense here.

    • You’ve got some good points, but I have to disagree with a few.

      Sacha was solid in the midfield… involved with almost every passing sequence that threatened. He also broke up a lot of plays and fought hard to win the ball back if he did turn it over. Additionally, he put himself in good places to get some shots off of rebounds, but was denied by good defending. What more could you want from a non-attacking midfielder? He definitely helped his position with the team last night, even if he’s not displacing Bradley or Jones from the starting lineup.

      Castillo wasn’t great in the first half, but in the 2nd he also played very well. Klinsmann obviously gave him the go ahead to move farther up the pitch, and he got in dangerous positions when he did.

      Also, Guzan was hardly MotM, but he doesn’t get a failing grade. Let’s remember that he did make a couple crucial saves AND it was raining cats and dogs out there. His defense let him down on both goals, even if his parry on the 2nd could have been a little better.

  6. Am I to understand that Jozy Sunderland is apt to rhubarb penetrate the zonal WORLD CUP left alone despite a TOTAL fitness levels for a Jurgenn horticulture share NOTHING but yes, now that we all can only snapple on the cusp of fissure a decision? Please. This is an OK sconce to RED CARD? Surely a Shea sophisticate locker room permanence symbiotically JOZY JOZY again, these drapes. DO you think an ewe was NOT JOZY. AGAIN?

  7. Calm down. Our defense is good enough, mostly, to stop teams, many of whose stars play in MLS and whose stars can’t keep pace with either Magee this year or Wondo over the last 4 years, Germany and Belgium showed what happens against better attackers. Italy result was surprising. Our offense has been able to score against defenders who mostly cannot shine in MLS. The results against a dispirited Mexico were a bit surprising. Only the comeback against a German team in a friendly can be taken as a real positive offensively heading to Brazil, but one game does not make a trend.

    I feel really sorry for Panama, but Mexico did, just barely, better than them in the Hex.

    • Comeback against Germany? We never trailed in that match. Perhaps you meant the US REBOUNDED after their loss to Belgium, but we never needed to come back against Germany.

    • wow man. I mean anyone who thinks we’re going to go in and win the World Cup or even that getting out of our group won’t be a dog fight are crazy. However we’ve had several decent results against European sides both home and away this cycle. You’re laying on the naysaying a little thick aren’t you?

  8. Panama did not play with the necessary composure to hold a lead and advance to the WC. It’s all about game management after their 2nd goal, and they did not execute. If you cannot execute in the WCQ, you will get swamped in Brazil. They don’t deserve to advance.

    The US B-team played the game like it was a tryout for Brazil. Panama played with a lot of heart and aggression, and provided a good test for some of the lower-tier players. I thought, under the circumstances and intense pressure, the players accounted well for themselves. JK has done a great job building a formidable player pool, including this game.

    I join the crowd who would not have been disappointed with seeing Mexico eliminated. I consider it payback for the vulgar, disrespectful behavior fans of Mexican descent show to US players and fans at games here at home. There is a very good reason why the USSF has not scheduled a friendly with Mexico in LA since 1998, and why we play the qualifiers in Ohio.

    Honduras and Costa Rica earned their spots in Brazil and will represent our region well. I question whether Mexico, based on the results, deserves to be there.

    • The inability to sit on a lead for 5 minutes is a basic tactical failure, and with their athletic backs, they let Zusi ghost in for a header?

  9. I was rooting for a US win for the simple reason that they are my team…

    But, I’m amazed at the tactics of Panama. When they had the lead late in the match, why on Earth did they not bunker. They have bunkered for entire games countless times in their history, but the moment they needed it the most they kept playing with an attacking mentality that exposed them.

    • I don’t think that is true. After their first goal the back line suddenly and room to breathe and build out of the back unchallenged. As soon as we leveled it pressure started up again. Then when Panama went up again we suddenly had time on the ball in our half again. If anything it just shows we have some talent to break down teams if they give us some time on the ball now.

      • I’m talking late in the match, when we generated a lot of chances and they were still making forays forward. That wasn’t the type of bunkering I remember seeing from them in the past.

    • I think, more than anything, they were kind of half-heartedly bunkering. They pushed really hard for that goal and when it came all the emotions came out and they were truly exhausted. They bunkered, but they didn’t get much pressure on the ball due to tiredness, and as a result the US broke them down (for the Zusi goal. The Johannsson goal was obviously different, they were just out of it by then).

  10. How come nobody’s said anything about how Orozco’s goal looked like it came off his arm? It certainly wasn’t a header. I’m a U.S fan, but was wondering if anybody else saw a different angle. I’ve watched the original about 10 times, and it looks hinky.

      • Or how ’bout Castillo? After all, he plays down in la Liga, no? As one of the game commentators said, “The most valuable player from the Mexican side last night!”

  11. The USMNT could not have gotten far enough this WCQ campaign without the dedicated constructive criticism of posters on All of us deserve to toast ourselves and the USMNT.

  12. I remember a few years ago we were so close to elimanting the Giants from entering the playoffs, long story short,.. They won the Super Bowl that year because of us with a 9-7 record. It should have been us πŸ™

    With that said, I would have cared less if we lost to Panama. In my opinion it would have been sweet to have seen the Mexican media go bananas for not qualifying to the WC. It also would have been amazing for Panama to have its first taste with the big boys in the world, would have been great for the country and its economy.

    My point.. If we had lost to panama, I would have felt like we actually won! For all the headbutts and dirty play from Oswaldo sanchez and borgetti whinny a$$ it would have been super sweet to have seen their dumb face reactions. Could have made shirts that read ” No W.C 2014 for you” with the sienfield soup guy on the shirt as well πŸ™‚

    I hate the packers, cardinals, giants, redskins, pistons, and the MexNT.. I have no love for them and wish all the losing possible to them πŸ™‚

    • I was pleased for the never-say-die attitude because that serves the team well in World Cups…..if we get the right draw. Algeria, etc.

      • It seems as though the “identity” of United States football is beginning to emerge through the WNT and MNT continuously playing until the final whistle blows. This is good and should put whoever our group is on notice that if you sleep – even during stoppage time – we’ll continue to press the issue.

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