The US men's national team may have prevented the birth of a national holiday in Panama.
The US toppled Panama, 3-2, on Tuesday in Panama City in the final game of qualification for next this summer's World Cup. And Panama, who have never qualified for a World Cup , needed a win against the US and for Mexico to lose to Costa Rica to have a shot at qualifying.
Costa Rica did its part, ousting Mexico 2-1 in San Jose.
Panama appeared to be on track, too. They opened the scoring in the 18th minute through Gabriel Torres, allowed the US to equalize via Orozco in the 64th, but then re-took the lead off a goal by Luis Tejada in the 83rd minute.
Tejada's goal was met with celebrations from the Panama City crowd. But the celebrations didn't last very long.
In the second minute of stoppage time, Graham Zusi headed in a cross from the left flank by Brad Davis. That silenced the crowd.
In the third minute of stoppage time, Aron Johansson, who came on as a substitute for Mix Diskerud midway through the second half, fired a drive into the back of the net to give the US the 3-2 lead.
Ironically, the result gives Mexico, the US' biggest soccer rival, a lifeline to reach the World Cup. They will participate in a home-and-away playoff with New Zealand in November for a spot in Brazil. The date with New Zealand belonged to Panama before the US crushed their chances of making history.
The US, who were already qualified for Brazil, finished atop the North, Central American and Caribbean six-country final group with 22 points. The result was also the US' first win in Central America under Jurgen Klinsmann in this stage of qualification.
While the US' late rally against Panama was entertaining, it wasn't entirely surprising. With injuries to Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Michael Bradley, plus choosing to rest Tim Howard, Fabian Johnson, DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, and Omar Gonzalez, the stage was set for six MLSers and Europe-based players on the fringes of their club teams to impress US Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Brad Guzan filled in well for Howard in goal, making four saves. Houston's Brad Davis had two assists on the game. Seattle's Brad Evans continues to impress as a defensive option. Sacha Kljestan, Edgar Castillo, and Alejandro Bedoya may be on the outside looking in come summertime.
Also qualifying for the World Cup on Tuesday were Honduras, England, Russia, Spain, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chile, and Ecuador.
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