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Gold Cup: Panama pull off upset, hand USA first-ever group-stage loss

TAMPA, Fla. – Panama registered one of the biggest upsets in CONCACAF Gold Cup history with a 2-1 win over the US national team in the second round of Group C matches at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night.

With goals from Luis Tejada and Gabriel Gomez, the Panamanians handed the USA their first-ever loss in Gold Cup group play and the first Panama victory in any competition over the USA, which entered the match holding a 6-0-2 record against the Central Americans.

With the three points Panama advance to the quarterfinals and now leap to the top of the Group C standings with six points while the USA is even with Canada, which defeated Guadeloupe 1-0 in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. The result means that the USA will most likely have to beat Guadeloupe in their Group C finale to qualify for the quarterfinal round, though depending on other results, a draw could see them through as well.

Tejada scored in the 19th minute and Gomez converted a 36th-minute penalty kick for a 2-0 lead. The underdogs did enough to make it hold up as the USA put the Panamanian penalty area under siege for the entire second half, getting a goal through Clarence Goodson and seeing several golden opportunities go by the wayside.

After a couple of half chances on both ends, it was Panama who found the opening goal in the 19th minute. After a free kick scheme collapsed, Panama’s Gomez collected the ball and sent a diagonal rope into the USA penalty area. Defender Eduardo Dasent, who was in an advanced position for the preceding set piece play, was unmarked and connected on a diving header from the right side which goalkeeper Tim Howard blocked. But Tejada was first to react, crashing in on goal for a 1-0 lead.

The Americans had a furious response sending several shots at goal but Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo was up to the task every time. Clint Dempsey was especially active in search of the equalizer, sending a 26th minute header off a set piece right at Penedo. Two minutes later Goodson headed another free kick wide right.

Just as the USA were persistently knocking on the door for an equalizer, Panama got their second when Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez awarded a penalty kick after Ream brought down forward Blas Perez, who barely beat the Red Bulls defender to a ball in the box. Gomez sent the PK into the roof of the net for a 2-0 Panama lead.

Three minutes before halftime, Tejada could have had his second of the match. Gomez was again the provider with a long ball that the Panamanian forward chested down. Goodson wasn’t able to clear and he allowed Tejada to get a left-footed shot off which dangerously crossed the face of the goal.

Panama again came close to making it 3-0 with a free kick from 20 yards out which Gomez lofted just high of the crossbar in the 55th minute.

Bradley introduced his first two subs at the 60th minute mark with Sacha Kljestan and Alejandro Bedoya coming into the match. Bedoya found himself in the middle of a disputed play in the Panama box. He beat the goalkeeper to a ball and was touched in the process but the referee ruled it a dive and booked Bedoya.

The breakthrough for the USA would finally come on a set piece in the 68th minute. Donovan’s delivery was flicked on by Michael Bradley to an unmarked Goodson who headed home from the top of the six-yard box.

The Americans enjoyed a slew of dead ball opportunities and also brought on reigning MLS Golden Boot champion Chris Wondolowski with 12 minutes remaining. The San Jose Earthquakes star had a golden chance to equalize in the 81st minute when he was on the receiving end of a well-worked, hard-driven, Jozy Altidore cross at the near post. But Wondolowski’s touch sent the ball over the bar just feet away from the goal line.

There were two last-gasp opportunities for the USA to equalize in the final minute. After a spectacular passing build-up, Bradley could not send his shot on target from 15 yards out. Moments later, Altidore saw the Panamanian ‘keeper swat away a header which was destined for the top left corner.

The USA trotted out the identical starting XI from the 2-0 win over Canada in the first game of the competition. Costa Rica right back Adolfo Machado was unavailable after suffering a concussion in the first match and his place was taken by Eduardo Dasent. Roman Torres, who missed the first match due to a muscle strain, returned as the regular in central defense alongside Felipe Baloy.

The group stage of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup will wrap up with the final round of Group C matches on Tuesday, June 14, from Livestrong Sporting Park. The doubleheader kicks off with Canada vs. Panama (7 p.m. ET), followed by the Americans taking on Guadeloupe (9 p.m. ET).

PAN – Tejada 19’
PAN – Gomez (PK) 36’
USA – Goodson 68’

USA (4-4-2, left to right): #1 Tim Howard -- #3 Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), #15 Tim Ream, #21 Clarence Goodson (78’ #11 Chris Wondolowski), #6 Steve Cherundolo -- #8 Clint Dempsey, #13 Jermaine Jones (61’ #16 Sacha Kljestan), #4 Michael Bradley, #10 Landon Donovan -- #9 Juan Agudelo (61’ #22 Alejandro Bedoya), #17 Jozy Altidore
Subs Not Used: #23 Marcus Hahnemann, #5 Oguchi Onyewu, #7 Maurice Edu, #14 Eric Lichaj,

Panama (4-4-2, left to right): #1 Jaime Penedo -- #17 Luis Henriquez, #23 Felipe Baloy, #5 Roman Torres, #14 Eduardo Dasent -- #10 Nelson Barahona (70’ #8 Gabriel Torres), #6 Gabriel Gomez, #21 Amilcar Henriquez, #11 Armando Cooper (84’ #19 Alberto Quintero) -- #18 Luis Tejada (81’ #22 Eybir Bonaga), #7 Blas Perez
Subs Not Used: #12 Luis Mejia, #3 Harold Cummings, #15 Eric Davis, #16 Luis Renteria

DISCIPLINARY SUMMARY: Jones 18’ (caution), Altidore 25’ (caution), Goodson 56’ (caution), Bedoya 64’ (caution), Penedo 91’ (caution), Bocanegra 92’ (caution)

Referee: Marco Rodriguez (Mexico)

Assistant Referee: Jose Luis Camargo (Mexico), Alberto Morin (Mexico)
Fourth Official: Jeffrey Solis (Costa Rica)

Attendance:  27,731

Weather: Clear, 88 degrees