The United States Men’s National Team’s (USMNT) 13-match unbeaten streak came to an abrupt halt in Panama City on Sunday. The U.S. lost 1-0 on an impressive set-piece, then again to a compact Panamanian defense, and finally to viscose humidity and sweltering heat — all in front of 30,000+ rambunctious fans. Chants of “Sí se puede” filled the stadium as the game came to a close.
“It was a hot day, humid and the crowd was into it. And overall, it wasn’t a good performance by all of us,” said a bruised Kellyn Acosta who earned his 42nd cap for the United States that night. The Panamanians matched the Rapids’ midfielder’s tenacity throughout the match and finished the game sporting a head bandage after he collided hard with Panama’s Armando Cooper. “We didn’t match their intensity. They came from the front in the first minute. It was hard for us to get into the game,” a brutally honest Acosta stated.
“It’s sports. It’s humans. There’s no one explanation for it,” added U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter after the match. “We didn’t have that pop. We didn’t have the legs that we needed, and we suffered for it. We weren’t great in duels. Panama, we talked about being a very physical team, a very difficult team to break down, and that’s exactly what they were.”
Berhalter rotated his line-up in response of the predicted heat and humidity. ”Part of the idea was to get seven fresh players on the field and make Panama pay, and we didn’t do that,” he added. His team generated only five shots and zero on goal. Without Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, the Yanks will once again look to Ricardo Pepi, Sebastian Lletget, and Brenden Aaronson to fire up the offense.
The Yanks sit in second place with eight points after five Final Round qualifying games. They returned stateside on Monday and they will host Costa Rica tonight in Columbus, Ohio, in their last match of the October international window. Team USA holds a 7W-1D-2L record in Columbus during qualifying games, the most by the USMNT in any city.
Costa Rica will enter the match in fifth place with six points. Los Ticos are coming off their first win in World Cup qualifying with a 2-1 home victory over El Salvador on Sunday.
For this match, the U.S roster will be fortified by the addition of goalkeeper Zack Steffen, defender Antonee Robinson, and midfielder Weston McKennie — all traveled directly from Austin, Texas to Columbus for Wednesday’s match after the U.S-Jamaica match. Robinson and Steffen did not travel to Panama due to quarantine requirements for players returning to the UK, while McKennie had experienced soreness in a quadricep.
The USA is 18-16-6 all-time against Costa Rica and 18-6-4 at home, including a made-for-TV match at Dick’s Sporting Good Park on March 22, 2013. Both teams played in a classic early spring Colorado snowstorm before a sold-out red, white and blue crowd that braved all the elements. Clint Dempsey scored the USA’s lone Snow Clasico goal for a 1-0 win.
Eight teams are in the pool: the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Panama, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador. The remaining games will be played throughout the Concacaf region in round-robin, home and away fashion during a seven-month period that concludes next March. The top three teams will qualify for the FIFA World Cup play, while the fourth-place team will advance to an intercontinental playoff.
USMNT ROSTER BY POSITION, AFFILIATION, CAP/GOALS
GOALKEEPERS (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 23/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 12/0)
DEFENDERS (9): George Bello (Atlanta United; 5/0), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 14/1), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 8/0), Shaq Moore (Tenerife/ESP; 13/1), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim/GER; 3/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 16/1), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 13/2), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 68/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 19/2)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 42/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 19/1), Gianluca Busio (Venezia/ITA; 6/0), Luca de la Torre (Heracles/NED: 4/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 33/8), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 26/7), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 8/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 29/0)
FORWARDS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 12/5), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 41/8), Matthew Hoppe (Mallorca/ESP; 5/1), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 3/3), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 15/1), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 64/14)
How to Watch: USA vs Jamaica
Match Date/Time: October 13 at 5:00 p.m. MT
Venue: Lower.com Field — Columbus, Ohio
TV Information: ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN