The U.S. Men's National Team shattered Panama's hopes of a berth to the 2014 FIFA World Cup - and kept Mexico's alive - with two stoppage-time goals to rally for a 3-2 victory at Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
Down 2-1 after a Luis Tejada strike in the 83rd minute, the U.S. got the late goals from Graham Zusi and second-half substitute Aron Johannsson, playing in only his fourth game with the U.S. MNT. Zusi's equalizer came in the second minute of stoppage time, while Johannsson's game-winner came a minute later.
With the victory, the U.S. MNT equals its best performance in FIFA World Cup Qualifying with a 7-2-1 record and 22 points, matching its point total from the 2005 Hexagonal.
For a few minutes, Mexico's hopes of qualifying for the World Cup were on life support, only to be saved by Zusi's equalizing strike. If the U.S. would have lost to Panama, Mexico, who lost to Costa Rica 2-1 this evening, would have finished in fifth place and missed out on their first World Cup since 1982. With the U.S. win in the final minutes, Mexico was assured a fourth place finish ahead of Panama. The USA's rivals will now play the two-game Intercontinental Playoff against New Zealand in November, with the aggregate winner advancing to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The USA finishes atop the CONCACAF region, followed by Costa Rica (5-2-3, 18 points), Honduras (4-3-3, 15 points), Mexico (2-3-5, 11 points), Panama (1-4-5, 8 points) and Jamaica (0-5-5, 5 points). The top three teams automatically qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Next up, the U.S. travels to Glasgow to face Scotland on Nov. 15 and Vienna to face Austria on Nov. 19. The game against Scotland kicks off at 3 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN2, WatchESPN and UniMas. The Austria match will kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network. Fans can also follow the games on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker and on Twitter @ussoccer. The USA fell behind early as the U.S. had several errant passes and clearances on the damp pitch prior to Panama's opening goal to open the door. In the 18th minute, U.S. left back Edgar Castillo had a giveaway and Panama countered with Alberto Quintero starting the attack to Marcos Sanchez, who laid the ball off above the box to Gabriel Torres. Torres' right-footed shot was whipped into the lower left corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead as U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan had little chance to stop the attempt.
It stayed that way until Michael Orozco scored off of a Brad Davis corner kick in the 64th minute to tie the score at 1-1. While it was not clear if Orozco or Panama's Carlos Rodriguez truly deflected the ball in, Orozco was quick to celebrate the tally that found the right side of the frame for the third goal of his career. It was Orozco's first goal in qualifying as he made just his second appearance in this qualifying cycle.
With Mexico trailing in its match against Costa Rica, Panama moved back into the Intercontinental Playoff position when Luis Tejada scored a dramatic 83rd-minute goal for a 2-1 lead. Roberto Chen crossed the ball in from the right side of the box. Guzan deflected the cross, but the ball went directly to Tejada who slotted it home to rile up the Estadio Rommel Fernandez crowd.
The USA spoiled Panama's party with the late heroics of Zusi and Johannsson. Approximately 90 seconds into second-half stoppage time, second-half sub Brad Davis looped his left-footed cross over the Panamanian defense and timed up perfectly with Zusi, who headed the ball into the left side of the net to tie the score at 2-2.
One minute later, with things looking like it would end in a stalemate, Guzan punted the ball deep to Terrence Boyd on the right side. He settled, took a couple of touches and saw Johannsson a few yards above the box. Johannsson lined up from 19 yards out and buried his low shot into the left side of the frame past diving Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo for the game-winner.
The U.S. MNT added to its record-breaking win total to improve to 16-3-2 in 2013. The USA is now 11-1-2 all-time against Panama and 3-0-1 on Panamanian soil.