In a race to three points that were at stake in the 2022 World Cup Qualifying match on Sunday, Panama sprinted out of the starting blocks, while the U.S. failed to maintain a promising pace.
Panama took hold of momentum early and held on to win 1-0 at the Estadio Rommel Fernádez in Panama City, handing the U.S. its first loss of the octagonal round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying.
Panama's Anibal Godoy headed Eric Davis' corner kick toward goal in the 54th minute, but U.S. center forward Gyasi Zardes was subsequently credited with the own goal. The ball bounced of Zardes before the ball crossed the goal line.
Panama's victory was its first against the U.S. in its World Cup Qualifying history. The U.S. had been unbeaten against Panama in its last six matches, going 4-0-2 in the process. The Americans were 16-1-6 all-time against Panama entering Sunday's qualifier.
USMNT absorbed pressure
After center back Walker Zimmerman gave the U.S. its first scoring opportunity in the 4th minute with a set piece header that skidded over the crossbar, Panama went on a tear, applying pressure on the U.S. defense.
Alberto Quintero started the attacking surge in the 10th minute. That continued in the 14th minute when Rolando Blackburn missed an incoming cross by a foot, having beaten Mark McKenzie to the spot and goalkeeper Matt Turner out of position.
Quintero, Godoy, Edgar Bárcenas and Eduardo Guerrero all had opportunities to add to the goal tally. Turner made three legitimate saves, but the stat sheet didn't tell the full story of his performance.
Panama had eight shots, with four of those on target.
Minimal attacking chances created
The U.S. did not have a shot on goal against Panama.
Forwards Zardes and Tim Weah both came into the lineup for Sunday's match, while Sebastian Lletget and Kellyn Acosta joined Yunus Musah in a midfield trio that looked disjointed on Sunday without Tyler Adams pulling the strings. Adams replaced Musah as a substitute at halftime.
Antonee Robinson and Weston McKennie, both starters against Jamaica, did not travel with the national team to Panama. Robinson did not make the trip due to Panama being on the U.K.'s COVID-19 red list, threatening a mandatory 10-day quarantine for Robinson before returning to play Fulham in the English Championship.
Backup goalkeeper Zack Steffen also did not travel to Panama for the same reason as Robinson. Steffen plays for Manchester City.
McKennie did not travel because of soreness in his right quad. All three players will travel to Columbus, Ohio, for the final qualifying match of October, against Costa Rica on Wednesday.
What does the loss mean for the USMNT
The U.S. (2-2-1, 8 points) is second in CONCACAF after five matches to start the octagonal round. The U.S. leads Panama on goal difference (plus-four), despite being tied on points.
When asked what he will tell his teammates in the locker room after the loss to Panama, captain Zimmerman immediately switched his focus to Wednesday's match against Costa Rica.
"Short memory," Zimmerman said on the CBS broadcast. "It's time to move on and focus on getting three points at home against Costa Rica."
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Panama beats USMNT in Concacaf World Cup qualifier