The United States and Panama have played some fairly important matches in recent history - the 2013 Gold Cup final, a World Cup qualifier in Panama in the final game of The Hex.
So with Panama holding fate in their own hands, needing a win to secure a quarterfinal spot, they gave up a deserved first half lead on a Michael Bradley equalizer early in the second half in a 1-1 draw in the final Group A match at Sporting Park in Kansas City.
Blas Perez fired home the opening goal as the US centerbacks of Ventura Alvarado got turned by Luis Tejada inside the American penalty area, allowing the Panamanian striker to find his partner Perez streaking past John Brooks for a tap in finish at close range.
Blas Perez beats John Brooks to the spot, gives Panama the 1-0 lead. #GoldCup2015 http://t.co/GU5Gfyru3w— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 14, 2015
It was the first time the US had trailed in the 2015 Gold Cup and it was a deserved lead as a reserve striker pairing of Gyasi Zardes and Chris Wondolowski were hampered by a clustered midfield. A Wondolowski flick on late in the first half found Alejandro Bedoya on a breakaway only for the US midfielder to have his heel clipped by a defender at the top of the area and for the referee to wave play on.
The first half was full of dangerous moments from Panama, including a flurry of action that saw Brad Guzan have to make a reaction save from his own player, stop a rebound and Fabian Johnson clear a possible goal bound shot for a corner midway through the first half. The US struggled defensively with Timmy Chandler having another less than stellar day and the centerbacks again showing their inexperience internationally and as a partnership.
In the second half, Jurgen Klinsmann opted to bring on a pair of regulars when Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin entered for Wondolowski and Alfredo Morales respectfully. The insertion of Dempsey paid immediate dividends in the 55th minute when Zardes and Dempsey kept the ball alive at the top of the Panama box.
Michael Bradley scores off a fine assist by Alejandro Bedoya. #GoldCup2015 http://t.co/2VdwkQvaZx— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 14, 2015
Dempsey's sliding pass found Bedoya on the left hand side of the area and he sent in a cross to find a streaking Bradley unmarked at the backpost for a sliding finish.
Panama's best chance the rest of the way came in the 75th minute when Guzan had to deflect an smart near post effort from Miguel Camargo who was closely marked by Kyle Beckerman.
The draw did nothing for the USA in the group standings, as they had already clinched the group title with wins in their first two games but it did clinch a quarterfinal berth for Haiti, who finished second with four points after a shock win over Honduras. Duckens Nazon's 14th minute goal was enough to secure Haiti's first trip to the quarterfinals since 2009 and sent Honduras to a last place finish with one point in three games.
Panama will have to wait and see if they advance based on the final games from Groups B and C, but Mexico and Jamaica both clinched spots in the next round by virtue of Panama's tie. Even with losses, both Mexico and Jamaica are on four points and would finish ahead of Panama in the third place tiebreaker.
The United States will face a third place team from either Group B or C while Haiti will play the Group B winner as part of a doubleheader in Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium on July 18th. The other quarterfinal games will be on July 18th at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.