Panama's Luis Ovalle (white jersey) and Cordell Cato of Trinidad & Tobago battle for the ball during a World Cup qualifier on March 24, 2017, in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. (Photo: CA-Images)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Much to the pleasure of head coach Hernan Dario Gomez, Panama proved a feisty foe for the visiting United States on Tuesday in a World Cup qualifier for Russia 2018.
The CONCACAF Hexagonal encounter ended in a 1-1 stalemate, with Gabriel Gomez equalizing for the host in the 43rd minute, four minutes after Clint Dempsey gave the Americans a 1-0 lead.
When all was said and done, Panama (1W-2D-1L, 5 points) finished matchday four play in third place on five points, one more than the U.S. (1-1-2, 4) and Honduras (1-1-2, 4).
The Panamanians’ performance helped offset the disappointment of Friday’s 1-0 loss at Trinidad & Tobago (1-0-3, 3), which currently props up the table.
“I didn’t give a talk,” said Gomez, regarding his reaction to the T&T setback. “I put on Mexico-Panama [0-0 draw from matchday two]. They watched. I put on 10 minutes of the match. Afterwards, I said, ‘What did you see?’ They all said, ‘attitude’. Since I have been here [February 2014], this is the first time that we have been losing and we drew. Today, we had a great attitude. I feel proud.
From the opening whistle, Panama displayed an energy that made life difficult for a U.S. team that was coming off a dazzling 6-0 win over Honduras.
For Panama full-back Adolfo Machado, it was all about effort and heart.
“It’s a good feeling,” the Houston Dynamo standout expressed. “If one looks at the positive side, the team ran and was into it and had the desire. I don’t want the fans to get down. We work to give them that joy.”
If qualifying was to end today, Panama would be booking tickets to their first-ever World Cup. With six games left on the schedule, however, there’s plenty of work left to do before any arrangements can be made in Russia.
“I leave content with the work that was done,” finished defender Roman Torres. “It is worthy, but we are in the top three, which is important. We value this point a lot. The matches that are coming will not be easy. They will be difficult.”
Panama returns to WCQ play on June 8 with a visit to second-place Costa Rica (2-1-1, 7).