U.S. Has Tougher Qualifier Against Panama but Earns a Point


Photo

Christian Pulisic of the United States, left, vied with Panama’s Luis Ovalle during a World Cup qualifying match in Panama City on Tuesday.

Credit
Arnulfo Franco/Associated Press

PANAMA CITY — In an emphatic destruction of Honduras on Friday, the United States men’s soccer team seemed to glide effortlessly across the field in almost dreamlike fashion, producing six goals and 3 critical points that moved them closer to their goal of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

A steamy, humid night at Estadio Rommel Fernández four days later turned out to be much more of a slog. Facing 90-degree heat at kickoff and thousands of passionate fans throughout, the Americans managed only one goal against Panama in Tuesday’s qualifier, but it was enough to secure them a point — never an easy thing to come by on the road in the Concacaf region.

The 1-1 result left the six-team qualifying standings much the same as they had been before Tuesday’s slate of games, with the United States remaining in fourth place but feeling satisfied about keeping pace after a bruising match.

“That’s Concacaf for you,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “Scrappy. We expected some calls, which was our mistake. But they are probably the most athletic team in Concacaf so they are always a handful to match.”

Clint Dempsey scored to give the United States the lead late in the first half with his 56th goal for the national team, one behind Landon Donovan’s team record. Dempsey, 34, who scored a hat trick in the United States’ win over Honduras, was playing in only his second game for the team since being sidelined for half a year with an irregular heartbeat.

The goal, though, was mostly the handiwork of Christian Pulisic, the 18-year-old prodigy who had combined so well with Dempsey in the Honduras game, played in San Jose, Calif. Pulisic collected a long pass in the box in the 40th minute and immediately went to work, leaving the Panamanian captain, Felipe Baloy, in the dust near the goal mouth. Then he deftly turned around defender Román Torres, Dempsey’s teammate with the Seattle Sounders, and slotted the ball across the six-yard box to Dempsey, who punched it into the back of the net.

With the crowd suddenly silent, Dempsey turned and pointed to Pulisic with both hands, acknowledging his promising young teammate’s hard work.

Pulisic withstood intense challenges from the Panamanian defenders, and many of his teammates were upset that the referees had allowed that type of play in a hostile environment.

“Sometimes it’s not always about soccer in these games,” Pulisic said.

Four minutes after Dempsey’s goal, Panama tied the score off a scramble in front of Howard. Adolfo Machado heaved a long throw-in into the box, where three American defenders were unable to produce a clean clearance. The ball fell to Howard’s left, and the American defender Jorge Villafana was a fraction of a second slow in reacting.

Gabriel Gomez pounced and fired a shot past Howard’s right and into the net, causing an eruption in the stands as Panama’s fans jumped, shouted and tossed cups into the air.

The Americans looked sloppy and disorganized compared with their performance against Honduras, but they regrouped before halftime. Panama had most of the best opportunities to score, but the Canaleros — so named after the Panama Canal — left their fans somewhat disappointed to have only drawn.

The result left Panama in third place in the six-team standings. Mexico, which beat Trinidad and Tobago by 1-0 on Tuesday, is in first place with 10 points, and Costa Rica, which drew with Honduras, 1-1, is second with 7 points. The top three teams qualify for the World Cup in Russia, and the fourth must head to a playoff with a team from the Asian region.

By the time they were boarding the team bus, the American players had found perspective in taking points in both games since the return of Coach Bruce Arena.

“We made progress,” Arena said. “Mexico has a jump on everyone. It’s going to be battle for second, third and fourth place.”

Continue reading the main story



Source link

About admin

Check Also

Yankees Aiming Lower on the Payroll, but Higher on the Field

The Yankees, who had a $209 million payroll last season, have a number of big ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *