In the end, Costa Rica beats silence
With a dramatic late goal, Costa Rica defeated Panama 2-1 on Saturday in the second match of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
In a scene completely atypical for a World Cup qualifier, Costa Rica played host to Panama in a completely desolate Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San Jose. With a few fans more than 200 meters away from the site of the match and with many restrictions on the local and international press, Roy Myrie gave the host a completely uncelebrated victory.
The home side took the advantage in the opening sequences of the match, but without creating anything dangerous toward the Panamanian goal, the visitors well-organized in containing the ticos onslaught.
The first goal came through a well-taken penalty by Wayne Wilson, who was taken down in the area by Panamanian goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. That goal was the only advantage before the halftime interval.
Just a few minutes after the break Costa Rica holding midfielder Jose Luis Lopez was sent off, after receiving a second yellow card. His loss greatly complicated the scheme of Costa Rica technical director Jorge Luis Pinto, which apart from the absence of Lopez, also saw his team begin to cede the initiative to the canaleros.
That led to the equalizing goal, also from the penalty spot, converted by forward Ricardo Brown.
After pulling even, the visitors began to control the match, and became bolder in going forward to look for a potential match-winner. Nearly at the end it almost came, the Costa Ricans saved only by goalkeeper Alvaro Mesen.
New Club Deportivo Chivas USA signing Douglas Sequeira held the match together for the 10-man Costa Rican side, battling like a virtual gladiator in the center of the park.
In a familiar film seen in the semifinal phase against the United States, the Panamanian side began to show their lack of experience in matches at this level and didn't look to protect the ball and maintain the result. That allowed the ticos to equalize through the young Myrie with almost the last kick and claim a valuable three points.
In the end, the night wasn't that silent, as many thought it might be. Costa Rica travels to Trinidad & Tobago on Wednesday for the third match in the hexagonal, while Panama returns home where they will face Mexico.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.