U.S. Men’s Soccer Team Is Second In World Cup Qualifying After Loss To Panama

by Bob Reinert

DeAndre Yedlin turns the ball towards the goal against Canada during the first half of their World Cup qualifying match on September 5, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The U.S. men’s soccer team dropped a surprising 1-0 decision to Panama on Sunday in Panama City, suffering its first defeat in the condensed final round of 2022 World Cup qualifying. 

After a scoreless first half, Panama scored on a header by Anibal Godoy off an Eric Davis corner kick in the 54th minute. The ball was also redirected by American Gyasi Zardes and into the goal.

The result leaves the U.S. and Panama even with eight points in the Concacaf “Octagonal” standings, trailing only Mexico, which has 11 points. The top three teams automatically qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, while the fourth-place team moves on to an intercontinental playoff.

The Covid-19 pandemic had compressed the World Cup qualifying schedule from 18 months to seven. Sunday’s match was the fifth of 14 the U.S. will play — home and away, against the other seven regional teams — in Concacaf’s final round of World Cup qualifying on the way to Qatar 2022.

The U.S. entered the Panama match with two wins and a pair of draws good for first place in the Octagonal standings. The Americans, who defeated Jamaica 2-0 on Thursday in Austin, Texas, were seeking their third straight win.

Player fitness is expected to be a major factor in qualifying, with each international window including three games instead of the usual two.

That proved to be the case against Panama, with the U.S. missing key players Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna and Weston McKennie due to injury. Others were rested in preparation for the third match of this qualifying window on Wednesday at home against Costa Rica in Columbus, Ohio. The U.S. starting lineup had seven changes from the Jamaica game and was the second-youngest starting lineup in American history.

In all, the U.S. had gone undefeated in 14 straight matches before Panama, including 12 victories.

Panama had dropped four straight matches to the U.S. dating back to a November 2020 friendly in Austria in which the Americans prevailed 6-2. The U.S. is now 6-1-2 against Panama in World Cup qualifying, including a 2-1-2 mark in Panama City. The Americans stand 16-2-6 against Panama all-time, outscoring Los Canaleros 47-15.

Panama was coming off a 1-0 defeat on Thursday at the hands of El Salvador. Los Canaleros had entered Sunday’s match in fourth place in the Octagonal standings.

Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.