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USMNT falls to Panama 1-0 in World Cup qualifying; Zardes starts

The Crew striker started in a disappointing U.S. performance in Panama City.

Panama v United States - Concacaf 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Photo by Eliecer Aizprúa Banfield/Getty Images

It was a poor result for the United States Men’s National Team in a 1-0 loss to Panama on Sunday night in FIFA World Cup qualifying. Los Canaleros got the team’s lone goal in the second half in front of its home fans in Panama City to earn the three points. It’s the first time ever the U.S. has lost to Panama in a World Cup qualifying game.

Columbus Crew striker Gyasi Zardes got the start at for Gregg Berhalter’s side in place of in-form Ricardo Pepi. Zardes played 67 minutes in this match and had little to no action offensively with no shots and just 14 touches for the game with his toughest moment came in the 54th minute on defense.

Panama was the stronger side throughout the first half, specifically looking its most threatening on corner kicks. The home team continued that momentum in the second 45 minutes with a corner kick in the 54th minute resulting in the lone goal.

The cross curved into the six-yard box where captain Anibal Godoy ran toward the ball. Godoy had no one marking him and headed the ball towards goal where Zardes was standing in front of goalkeeper Matt Turner. Zardes got the final touch that put the ball in the net. Godoy’s header was initially on target so the goal counted for him rather than a Zardes own goal.

Zardes came out of the game in the 67th minute for FC Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi but it was too little, too late. The United States lost the match with only four shots the entire game, none on target. The end of the contest was wild with ball boys kicking balls under the stands and multiple Panama fans running onto the pitch in stoppage time.

The USMNT unbeaten streak is now over following the team’s first loss in a competitive game in 2021. The United States’ loss doesn’t take the country out of the top three places in the CONCACAF standings. The U.S. remains in second place after the loss with Mexico staying in first place and Panama moving up to third with Canada’s 0-0 draw to Jamaica moving the Canucks to fourth.

America will end the team’s October World Cup qualifying stretch in Columbus, Ohio against Costa Rica at Field on Wednesday, Oct. 13. Los Ticos are fresh off their first win in qualifying, a 2-1 victory against El Salvador on Sunday. The match in Columbus will feature multiple Crew connections with Zardes, Luis Diaz, Berhalter and Zack Steffen all currently or formerly being a part of the Black & Gold.