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USMNT Recap: shocking loss to Panama 2-1

Tim, you CAN'T do that in the box.
Tim, you CAN'T do that in the box.

This recap won't be nearly as fun to write as the last one.  To sum it up, the US played poorly.  We had never lost in group play in the Gold Cup until last night.  Panama came out as the quicker, hungrier team.  The same problem that has plagued the US throughout much of the Bob Bradley era reared it's ugly head again: slow starts.  This was of course a big problem in last years World Cup.  It seemed as if we were always playing from behind.  While the US was able to come back against England and Slovenia to preserve draws, we couldn't keep it up when we really needed it against Ghana.  Although that is in the past, it proves that you can't always rely on motivation from falling from behind.  Sometimes you can come back and draw or even win, but that approach game after game is a recipe for disaster.  Join me after the break for a quick recap and video highlights.

The US had a couple of good chances early.  Clint Dempsey had a nice look in the 8th minute but put it just wide of the post.  Jermaine Jones had a rather weak effort in the 14th minute to force a save, but the US did not have much to write home about up until that point.  Panama would draw first blood in the 19th minute as Luis Tejada put the ball home off a rebound.  Or so everyone thought.  Looking closer, to me it was an own goal by Clarence Goodson.  He tried to clear the ball but scuffed it past Tim Howard.  To create the chance, Panama had a free kick a bit outside of the 18, and the kick ricocheted off the wall.  It bounced back out, and was promptly sent into the box to an unmarked Eduardo Dasent who put a header on goal.  Tim Howard was a bit out of position, and could only get his finger tips on the ball.  This allowed for a ricochet, and the ball ended up in the back of the net to give Panama the early 1-0 lead.

Most US fans thought this would immediately wake up the US team, and Clint Dempsey again nearly equalized with a strike in the 23rd minute that was destined for the upper right corner of the goal if not for a nice diving save by Panama's keeper.  The US did begin to press the issue and had a few other nice looks too.

Then the almost unthinkable happened.  The US would concede again to fall behind 2-0.  The cause was a young, rookie mistake by Tim Ream to give a penalty kick to Panama.  It's easy to be harsh on him.  It was a bad penalty and very unnecessary.  However, Tim is young and talented and will hopefully learn from this mistake.  On the flip side, in a game like this, you can't commit that penalty.  Just inexcusable in my book.  The play in question started off with the ball in the midfield, which was played up to Blas Perez.  He took the ball just inside the right side of the 18 yard box.  He was running AWAY from the goal, towards the touch line.  He and Tim Ream were fighting for the ball, and Ream took a swing with his leg.  Unfortunately, the follow through caught Perez squarely just inside the box for a penalty kick.  The inexcusable part was the fact that the player was not threatening a dangerous scoring opportunity.  He had his back to the goal, and the ball was traveling away from the goal, which makes the penalty much harder to swallow.  Although Tim Howard guessed the correct direction on the PK, Gabriel Gomez shot the ball high and hard to give Panama a shocking 2-0 lead.

The US came out hungrier in the second half, knowing they would need to mount another come back to at least get a point.  The US would answer in the 68th minute.  Landon Donovan served up a free kick just outside of the 18.  Michael Bradley got a flick on the ball with his head, and it went to Clarence Goodson who promptly put away the header to cut the deficit in half.  I don't know about all US fans, but I know I was thinking of us once again donning the "Comeback Kids" cape and flying the team to at least a draw.  And this is where the US really tried to turn it on, with more than a few good chances to even the score.

In the 69th minute, once again Clint Dempsey nearly scored on a header from a service ball from Steve Cherundolo, just putting the effort over the crossbar.  The best chance clearly came in the 81st minute, as Jozy Altidore took a pass from Landon Donovan and dribbled the ball down the right side of the 18.  Just before he reached the end line, he crossed the ball in front of the goal to a WIDE OPEN Chris Wondolowski.  As I was jumping up out of my seat to celebrate the tying goal, Wondolowski put the ball over the cross bar to break the hearts of US fans.  He literally had to have been no more than 2 yards from a wide open goal, but he could not finish the best chance the US had in the 2nd half beside the Goodson goal. 

Michael Bradley almost did what Wondolowski could not as a Sacha Kljestan to Alejandro Bedoya to Wondolowski to Bradley ball nearly found the net.  Michael Bradley had the keeper beat, but put his shot just a couple of feet wide of the right post for an agonizing miss.  It was a nice display of one touch passing, but couldn't quite even the game.  Landon sent in a ball in the 91st that Jozy headed to require a diving save from the Panama keeper, who subsequently pretended to have a horrific knee injury to waste time.  The final gasp came in the 92nd minute, when Cherundolo served up a ball in the box that was redirected by Jozy and possibly Clint Dempsey to Landon Donovan, who took a quick one touch shot.  Unfortunately, the ball sailed just left of the goal for another near miss.

The US really fought in the 2nd half against a Panama side that had bunkered down to try to preserve a win.  It wasn't good enough, and the US simply cannot keep falling behind and expecting to come back.  This has happened too many times for it to be a coincidence.  Many fans are placing the blaming on former Chicago Fire head coach and current US head coach Bob Bradley as the reason for this happening.  Whatever the reason is, it HAS to stop.  We don't have the talent of a Germany or Spain or Netherlands or Argentina where we can fall behind and have the firepower to always come back.  Simply put, always playing from behind is not a valid strategy for any team, especially the US.

The US plays Guadeloupe Tuesday at 8 PM CDT.  US fans should look at this game as a must win game.  If we win, we guarantee we are in.  A victory guarantees we finish in the top 2 spots in the group and move on.  The Canada-Panama game looms huge for the US.  If Canada beats Panama and the US ends up having a better goal differential than both Canada and Panama then the US would still win the group and move on.  We cannot rely on this though.  We must simply look at the Guadeloupe game as a must win and go out and take care of business from the opening whistle to the final whistle.  Failure is not a option.  The game will be held at Livestrong Sporting Park in KC.  I expect the crowd to be loud and raucous, and cheer the USMNT on to victory.