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United States soccer suffers stunning 2-1 loss to Panama

TAMPA — The Unites States made soccer history Saturday night, but it was far from what it had in mind.

The offense looked disjointed, the defense unorganized and, in the end, its pride took a beating as Panama won 2-1 before 27,731 at Raymond James Stadium.

The loss was the first in 27 pool play games of the Gold Cup (including two ties) and the first to Panama in 11 games (including two ties).

The defeat also makes Tuesday's Pool C finale against Guadeloupe in Kansas City, Kan., unexpectedly critical. The Americans can earn a spot in the quarterfinals of the biennial tournament that determines the champion for North and Central America and the Caribbean with a win.

Panama earned a berth with the victory. It sits atop the group with six points while Canada and the United States have three. The top two countries in each of the three groups advance along with the top two third-place teams.

"We came out flat," U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan said. "I think we learned a hard lesson."

Panama held a two-goal lead until Clarence Goodson's header in the 68th minute trimmed the score to 2-1.

The United States pushed furiously from that point against a shelled-up Panamanian defense, but the equalizer didn't come.

"I think in the second half, we put a lot into it," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "In terms of executing in the final third, that part was clearly an area where we didn't do well enough."

The Americans, whose offense came to life after the goal, had several opportunities during the final 20 minutes. Their best came in the 80th minute, but Chris Wondolowski's shot from inside the 8-yard box off a Jozy Altidore cross sailed over the crossbar.

Michael Bradley narrowly missed wide in the 90th minute, and Clint Dempsey's header in extra time was turned away.

"We had some good chances," Bradley said. "But nonetheless, not sharp enough in the areas that matter."

Panama quieted a rowdy pro-American crowd early, scoring in the 19th minute. Gabriel Gomez's long pass from about 35 yards found Armando Cooper streaking toward the far post. Goalkeeper Tim Howard blocked Cooper's header, but a sliding Luis Tejada put in the rebound.

"We can't come out the way we did against teams in our region," Donovan said.

Panama increased the lead in the 36th minute, after defender Tim Ream was called for a foul in the penalty box. While jockeying for the ball with Blas Perez, Ream swung his leg to clear the ball but instead clipped Perez's thigh.

Howard got his fingertips on Gomez's shot, but the ball powered through for a 2-0 lead.

"The second goal makes it hard," Bradley said. "(Panama) was, of course, ahead, so they started dropping deeper."

The United States pulled within one in the 68th minute when Donovan played a free kick from deep in the right corner. Michael Bradley flicked it on with his head, and Goodson was there to connect on the diving header.

Canada 1, Guadeloupe 0: Guadeloupe played a man down for nearly the entire match, but Canada could push across only a lone goal in the first game of the doubleheader. Jean-Luc Lambourde received a red card and was ejected in the fourth minute. But Canada couldn't take advantage until the 49th minute, when Stephane Zubar took down Ali Gerba in the penalty box. Dwayne De Rosario converted the ensuing penalty kick to give Canada its first points of the Gold Cup.

Panama 2

U.S. 1

United States soccer suffers stunning 2-1 loss to Panama 06/11/11 [Last modified: Sunday, June 12, 2011 12:27am]
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