Petrasso scores, assists as Canada tops Panama

Michael Petrasso (pictured) celebrates after scoring against Panama in the CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship on October 3, 2015, in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo: Mexsport)

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Canada (1W-0D-1L, 3 points) rebounded from an opening loss to the United States in the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship with a 2-1 win over 10-man Panama (0W-1D-1L, 1 point) on Saturday at Sporting Park.

Michael Petrasso and Skylar Thomas each struck during a four-minute span in the first half to stake Canada to a 2-0 half-time lead, while Ben Fisk notched an insurance tally in the second half. Edgar Yoel Barcenas briefly halved the deficit just past the hour mark.

The result leveled the Canadians atop the Group A table with the United States (1W-0D-0L, 3 points), which can reclaim sole possession of first place with a win or draw against Cuba (0W-1D-0L, 1 point) later in the day.

In a fast-paced encounter that rarely took a breath, the clever Petrasso struck for his second goal of the competition in the 30th minute to give Canada a 1-0 lead. Taking up a wide-left position, the forward sneaked behind the defense to run on to a superb pass along the ground by Caleb Clarke. Petrasso was able to hold off a defender and beat goalkeeper Elieser Powell with his right foot from eight-yards out.

Three minutes later, the game took another turn, when Panama’s Carlos Small lifted his elbow into the face of Anthony Jackson-Hamel after the Canadian had released a pass in his own end. Referee Javier Santos issued Small a straight red card, obliging the Canaleros to contest a majority of the match down a player.

Canada capitalized almost immediately. A left-sided cross into the box by Christopher Mannella found Skylar Thomas, whose header hit the base of the right post, spun back into the six-yard and eventually ricocheted off the left post before crossing the line to make it 2-0 in the 34th minute.

Panama emerged from the break in a spirited mood and looked determined to get back into the match. Its off-the-ball movement improved as did its commitment to beating defenders in open field situations. 

That renewed approach helped it get on the scoreboard in the 61st minute. After receiving a pass from the center of the field, Abdiel Arroyo raced into the right side of the box and passed towards the top of the six-yard box, where Barcenas first-timed it into the back of the net. 

The Panamanians’ optimism was short-lived, though, as Fisk made scoring appear to be an uncomplicated task in the 74th minute. From the left side, Petrasso slipped a ball to Fisk just outside the box. Without being seriously challenged, the Spain-based forward simply passed the feed inside the right post, leaving Powell flatfooted.

As the clock wound down, Panama produced multiple scoring chances, but Canada goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau made key saves on Michael Murillo and Arroyo in the 87th minute and stoppage time, respectively.

The sides will complete group play in Commerce City, Colorado, on Tuesday, with Canada taking on Cuba and Panama meeting the USA.