This isn’t the kind of history the U.S. men wanted to make.
The Americans experienced their first-ever loss to Panama in World Cup qualifying on Sunday, unable to rally after conceding a goal early in the second half. The 1-0 loss, their first in Concacaf’s Octagonal, drops them to second in the standings behind archrival Mexico ahead of next month’s game in Cincinnati.
The top three teams will automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
With a game Wednesday against Costa Rica in Columbus, Ohio, coach Gregg Berhalter made seven changes to the starting lineup from Thursday night’s win over Jamaica. Whether that was too much shuffling for the USMNT isn’t clear, but the Americans were never really in this game.
The midfield was simply a mess, with no cohesion and sloppiness at every position. The closest the Americans came to a goal was Walker Zimmerman’s header off a corner kick in the fourth minute that sailed a few inches above the crossbar.
Frankly, they were lucky to not be trailing after a lackluster first half that saw Panama have several chances off set pieces.
But their luck ran out in the 54th, when Anibel Godoy put Panama in the lead with a glancing header off a corner kick.
The USMNT got a brief spark in the 67th when Ricardo Pepi entered the game. The 18-year-old had only played two games for the Americans, but has already scored three goals and brings a spark few other players have. That’s taken on added importance with Christian Pulisic (ankle) and Gio Reyna (hamstring) not with the Americans this window.
Three minutes after entering the game, Pepi took a shot from inside the box, but it was wide of the far post and the Americans never threatened again.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USMNT drops behind Mexico in Concacaf standings after loss to Panama