U.S. tops Panama, gives Canada semifinal berth

USA's Matt Polster (white jersey) dribbles against Panama in the CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship on October 6, 2015, in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo: Mexsport)

COMMERCE CITY, Colorado – The United States completed Group A play in the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship with a perfect 3W-0D-0L record after defeating Panama 4-0 on Tuesday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. 

The Americans had already sealed advancement, but clinched first place in the group prior to the start of the game thanks to a 2-2 draw between Canada (1W-1D-1L, 4 points) and Cuba (0W-2D-1L, 2 points). In order to earn the last semifinal berth, Panama needed to defeat the U.S. by three goals. With the result, the Canadians will join also enter the final four fray. 

Mexico and Honduras, which have already secured the semifinal spots from Group B, will meet tomorrow in what amounts to a seeding match.

An own-goal by Panama defender Fidel Escobar five minutes into the second half opened the floodgates for the U.S., which added two more goals in a span of six minutes. 

Three minutes after Escobar accidently tapped in a Jerome Kiesewetter near-post cross, the Stuttgart forward doubled the United States’ lead when he put a low shot inside the far post following a series of tight passes just inside the 18-yard box. It was his third goal of the competition.

Kiesewetter turned provider again in the 56th minute, finding Jordan Morris, who made a hard-charging run toward the front of the net before tapping in to make it 3-0 with his third goal of the tournament.

For the fourth goal, Kiesewetter made a penetrating run into the box, where he was tripped by Roberto Chen, giving Costa Rican referee Hugo Cruz no choice but to point to the spot. 

Luis Gil put his penalty in off the hand of Panamanian goalkeeper Elieser Powell to give the United States a commanding 4-0 lead in the 71st minute. It was the Real Salt Lake midfielder’s second penalty kick goal of the tournament. 

Powell was pivotal in keeping the United States off the scoreboard in the first half, coming up with two spectacular saves in the 11th minute to deny both Maki Tall and Gedion Zelalem. 

Ten minutes later, Powell again dived to his left to push aside a Gil shot on a quick counterattack.