COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The United States continued their dominant run through the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship, firmly establishing themselves as the class of Group A on Tuesday night with a 4-0 thumping of Panama.
Jerome Kiesewetter, Stanford University star and Seattle Sounders product Jordan Morris and Real Salt Lake’s Luis Gil each bagged goals, with the first of the night coming via a Panama own goal, all coming in the second half at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
The Yanks, with three wins and a plus-11 goal differential, will face the second-place team from Group B – either Mexico or Honduras, who face off Wednesday – in the semifinals Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Panama, meanwhile, managed just one point from their three qualifying matches, finishing at the bottom of the group.
With the group’s top spot already secured, US head coach Andreas Herzog brought fresh legs to his lineup, and it paid early dividends with plenty of chances created.
Forward Maki Tall squared up on the Panama goal in the 11th minute, but his well-driven shot was knocked away by goalkeeper Elieser Powell.
Panama’s Edgar Barcenas almost pushed his side ahead in the 18th minute after pouncing on a loose ball in front of US center back Will Packwood. As the defender stepped to him, Barcenas drove his shot just high as ‘keeper Ethan Horvath could only watch and hope.
Panama was tricky enough in getting into the final third with quick combination passing but couldn’t break through the pairing of Packwood and Cameron Carter-Vickers in central defense.
The United States acted quickly in the second half to give themselves some breathing room on the score sheet. Gboly Ariyibi began causing problems for the Panamanian defense almost immediately down the left sideline. He blasted a ball inside the box that took a deflection off defender Fidel Escobar for the 50th minute own goal.
Ariyibi again started a dangerous sequence down his flank just three minutes later. With four US attackers in the box, the ball was played to Morris, on to Gil, across to Kiesewetter on the right for his solid strike far post and the 2-0 lead.
Kiesewetter and Morris were not done and increased the lead to three goals in the 56th minute. Kiesewetter was free with space down the right side with plenty of time to spot Morris cruising behind the defender for the tap-in and 3-0 lead.
The fourth goal was set up by a nice individual effort from Kiesewetter skipping past one defender in possession then being brought down in the box for a penalty kick. Gil stepped up and popped the goal past a worn-out looking Powell in the 71st minute to complete the rout.