ORLANDO, Fla. – Panama knew it wasn’t going to be an easy match heading into Friday’s crucial World Cup qualifying contest against the US national team.
But after a 4-0 defeat, which certainty puts their World Cup dreams in considerable peril, Panama head coach Hernan Dario Gomez is left with one lingering question after his side were thrashed at Orlando City Stadium.
“I think we should ask ourselves what happened?" Gomez told reporters following the match. "We encountered a team immensely superior from the start, in every capacity. In everything they were superior. They played excellent tonight and for us, a bad night. We played really bad… we looked ugly. This is not the team or performance we worked so much for. That’s what happened.”
The Panamanians were outshot 23-11, but it was the USMNT racing out to a 3-0 lead by halftime that proved the difference on the night.
“At halftime I told the guys to let’s try to hold their 3-0 goal lead because we needed at least one goal for goal differential,” Gomez continued. “It wasn’t a good moment tonight for us, especially against a rival so superior. We were saved because that performance should have warranted 10 goals against us.”
For defender Roman Torres, having to mark US star Christian Pulisic brought its difficulties.
“To be honest, he’s a player that moves really well, but not only him, but the other players as well moved well around the field, and I think that’s what hurt us,” said Torres. “We needed to be more concentrated, but for them it was a good night. I think we have to move on to the next stage and focus on the next challenge.”
Bobby Wood capped the scoring for the Yanks when he made it 4-0 in the 63rd minute, encapsulating a nightmare game for Los Canaleros.
Like his coach, Torres was left stunned by the capitulation.
“Honestly, I don’t understand what happened tonight,” said Torres. “We lost, which is something hard and difficult for us, but we have to keep our heads up. We have to continue to move forward. Right now, we have to pick ourselves up and look forward to Tuesday and give our maximum and think about playing for the final spot.”
For Panama, the loss provisionally places them fourth the Hex standings with 10 points, with one game left, next week against Costa Rica in Panama. The fourth-place finisher in CONCACAF will play an inter-confederation playoff against either Australia or Syria.
Adolfo Machado, who did not play on Friday night, lamented over the loss. The 32-year-old defender from the Houston Dynamo called for calm and expressed hope Panama can still fight for their first ever World Cup spot.
“We have to be realistic… we can’t find excuses, they were better than us tonight,” said Machado. “The possibility to go the World Cup still exists, we just now have to shift our focus on holding on to that last qualification spot that puts us playing in the playoff match.”