GUADALAJARA, Mexico (February 3, 2004) - The U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team scored on three consecutive shots and was looking at a 3-0 lead by the 30th minute, but needed an 79th minute winner by midfielder Bobby Convey to top Panama 4-3 tonight in their opening game of the Final Round of CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying at Estadio 3 de Marzo in the Zapopan suburb of Guadalajara, Mexico.
"We're always happy to get three points, but we're just disappointed about the manner in which we did it," said U.S. U-23 MNT head coach Glenn "Mooch" Myernick, whose all-time U-23 international record improves to 5-2-4. "My team is very disappointed in the locker room, and I haven't had to say a word to them, which is a good sign."
"There's not a lot of time to concern ourselves or worry about it, becuase our next game is less than 48 hours away."
From the opening kickoff, the U.S. seemed ready to take the game at a Panama team that just arrived into Guadalajara on Saturday (Jan. 31). In fact, in the first minute of the match, forward Alecko Eskandarian found himself on the end of a Convey pass and ripped a shot that was saved out for a corner kick by Panama 'keeper Jaime Penedo.
The U.S. broke through in the 7th minute after a Brad Davis free kick produced a poor clearance and loose ball in the box that Chevrolet Man of the Match Bobby Convey fought to reach and drove off the hands of Penedo and into the side netting. After withstanding a steady offensive push by Panama for the next 20 minutes, the U.S. capitalized on two great finished in as many minutes.
In the 28th minute, forward Landon Donovan eluded two defenders while dribbling down the right flank near the endline and played a ball back to midfielder Brad Davis, who crushed it past Penedo. Less than a minute later, Donovan was on the recieving end, playing a give-and-go with 2002 World Cup teammate DaMarcus Beasley that ended with Donovan provinding a clever flick to finish and give the U.S. what was thought to be a commanding 3-0 lead by the 30th minute.
The U.S. and Panama traded chances for the rest of the first half, with former U-20 defenders Chad Marshall and Zak Whitbread each putting shots on frame that were saved by Penedo with a header in the 34th minute and a volley in the 45th, respectively.
Trailing the U.S. 3-0 at halftime, Panama came out with guns blazing in the second half, bouyed by the support of an anti-U.S. crowd that chanted "Si, Se Puede" (Yes, You Can) and "Panama, Panama, Panama."
Lanky Panama forward Jose Luis Garces slotted home the first of his two goals after deftly chesting down a long ball from midfielder Victor Miranda that cleared the head of defender Nat Borchers and finishing past U.S. goalkeeper D.J. Countess in the 53rd minute.
Four minutes later, defender Luis Henriquez ran onto a long ball from midfield playmaker William Aguilar and caught Countess flat-footed with a wicked bomb that found side netting from the left corner of the penalty area in the 57th minute. The goal was almost identical to one struck by T&T forward Devon Mitchell past a statuesque Jose de Jesus Corona to give the "soca warriors" a surprising 1-0 lead before they fell to Mexico 3-1 on Monday night.
On the other end of the field, the U.S. almost went ahead 4-2, but Eskandarian was stripped of a goal after finishing a breakaway chance that was set up by midfielder DaMarcus Beasley due to a late offside call.
Instead, Panama continued on the offensive and Garces netted the equalizer in the 71st minute after a poor clearance by Borchers 40 yards from the U.S. goal on a long ball upfield by defender Francisco Lopez. Aguilar pounced on the ball, quickly found Tejada with a square pass before the forward fed a streaking Garces for an easy breakway goal to equalize the game at 3-3 and bring the crowd to its feet.
After recording eight shots in the first half, the U.S. did not have a shot in the second half until the bang-bang play that produced the game winner. Beasley set up the play with a dribble down the left flank and a cross into second-half sub Ed Johnson in the middle of the box. Johnson's volley was blocked by a defender, but the loose ball found fell to Convey, who slammed it past goalkeeper Jaime Penedo to give the U.S. the win. Immediately after the shot, Convey collided with Panama captain Felipe Baloy and then fell to the ground under the weight of a celebrating teammates. While Baloy received a yellow card for the incident, the D.C. United midfielder received medical attention on the ground with the wind knocked out of him.
The U.S. had a chance to add an insurance goal in the 83rd minute when Beasley played Johnson behind the defense for a quick breakaway, but the U-20 Golden Shoe winner at UAE '03 rolled sent his first-time shot a foot wide of the far post.
With the go-ahead goal having taken the wind out of their sails, the U.S. was able to control the final 10 minutes of play and kill off the two minutes of extra time, having survived a somewhat unexpected dogfight of an opening match.
"It's obviously one of the craziest games that I've ever been a part of," said Countess, who has helped the U.S. qualify and compete in Youth World Championships at both the U-17 (New Zealand '99) and U-20 (Argentina '01) levels. "It's one of those (performances) that, for us, are quite frankly unacceptable."
The U.S. might be forced to face the loss of Liverpool defender Whitbread, who was replaced in the 55th minute by Jose Luis Burciaga due to a quad strain. The U.S. also picked up two yellow cards in the match, with Davis receiving one in the 17th minute and Beckerman picking up one in the 21st minute.
The U.S. continues group play versus border rival Canada on Thursday (Feb. 5) at 8 p.m. CT at Estadio 3 de Marzo. Coverage for that match is available on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
Participants: United States vs. Panama
Competition: CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying – Final Round
Venue: Estadio 3 de Marzo – Guadalajara, Mexico
Date: February 3, 2004 – 8 p.m. local / CT
Weather: 65 degrees; cool, hazy
Attendance: 1,500 (approx.)
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
Panama 0 3 3
USA 3 1 4
USA – Bobby Convey (unassisted) 7th minute.
USA – Brad Davis (Landon Donovan) 28.
USA – Landon Donovan (DaMarcus Bealsey) 29.
PAN – Jose Luis Garces (Victor Miranda) 53.
PAN – Luis Henriquez (William Aguilar) 57.
PAN – Jose Luis Garces (Luis Tejada) 71.
USA – Bobby Convey (unassisted) 79.
PAN (4-4-2): 1-Jaime Penedo; 14-Francisco Lopez, 2-Roberto Stewart (6-Gustavo Avila, 46), 5-Felipe Baloy (Capt.), 11-Luis Henriquez; 4-Engin Mitre, 17-Wess Torres (8-Rolando Escobar, 46), 13-Victor Miranda, 7-William Aguilar (16-Blas Perez, 77); 9-Jose Luis Garces, 10-Luis Tejada.
Subs Not Used: 12-Francisco Portillo; 15-Jose Justavino, 18-Leonel Parris, 19-Nicolas Munoz.
Head Coach: Jose “Cheche” Hernandez.
USA (4-4-2): 1-D.J. Countess; 16-Chris Wingert, 6-Nat Borchers, 14-Chad Marshall, 13-Zak Whitbread (2-Jose Luis Burciaga, 55); 5-Kyle Beckerman, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 9-Brad Davis (8-Logan Pause, 84), 15-Bobby Convey; 10-Landon Donovan (Capt.), 11-Alecko Eskandarian (20-Ed Johnson, 75).
Subs Not Used: 18-Doug Warren; 3-Ricky Lewis, 4-David Stokes, 12-Brian Carroll, 17-Eddie Gaven, 19-David Testo.
Head Coach: Glenn “Mooch” Myernick.
Statistical Summary: PAN USA
Shots 13 11
Saves 3 4
Corner Kicks 4 2
Fouls 14 12
Offside 1 4
USA – Brad Davis (caution) 17th minute.
USA – Kyle Beckerman (caution) 21.
PAN – Luis Henriquez (caution) 33.
PAN – Francisco Lopez (caution) 50.
PAN – Felipe Baloy (caution) 80.
Referee: Gilberto Alcala (MEX)
Assistant Referee #1: Hector Degaldillo (MEX)
Assistant Referee #2: Reynaldo Salinas (HON)
Fourth Official: Neal Brizan (TRI)
Chevrolet Man of the Match: Bobby Convey
-- ADDITIONAL QUOTES --
U.S. U-23 MNT head coach Glenn Myernick
On the how surprised he was at Panama's three-goal comeback:
"(I was) more disappointed than surprised. My team scored the early goal, then at that moment stopped playing with the intensity that is required to play at this level. And even though we then scored two more goals, we lacked urgency, particularly in our individual defending, which I thought was poor. But again, congratulations to Panama. They never stopped playing."
On any changes he might make for the next game (vs. Canada on Thursday):
"We have to see how we come out of this physically, and we have a couple of yellow cards that we have to concern ourselves with ... We certainly won't make any changes in the shape that we play from, or the manner in which we attack, but certainlty we'd like to address what are some of the characteristics of a good team that holds a lead."
On the second Panama goal:
"I don't know who the best goalkeeper in the world is, but I don't think anyone was going to save that shot."
On the team's weaknesses:
"From the first time we started putting this group together, we knew that the experience was in the attack, and the inexperience was in the back, and tonight was a pretty clear demonstration of that. If we have to win 5-4 or 6-5, maybe that's what we'll do."
U.S. U-23 MNT midfielder Bobby Convey
On the team's opening game performance:
"I think we need to come out and do a lot better. We know we have to get better every game. I think that was a good start for us to win a game. We needed to get three points in the first game, and we did that. We just need to come out a lot better than that (versus Canada on Thursday)."
On the second half letdown:
"We came out and scored three quick goals, and I think we set back a bit and they came out flyin' in the second half. We settled in a little too much and gave the ball away a little bit too much, and they just kept creating momentum with the goals they scored. We're just happy that we came out with a win in the end."
On his two goals:
"I'm just happy to play in a more forward position and score goals for my team. I was just in the right place and finished for us. I like playing up there and I was happy that I could score those two."
On the altercation after the game-winning goal:
"I scored and their defender punched me in the stomach. I couldn't breathe. He elbowed me in the stomach and then tried to say I was wasting time while on the ground. You have to know it's coming in qualifying, and against these teams, and you just have to play through it."
-- GROUP A UPDATE --
HONDURAS DOWNS CANADA 1-0 IN GROUP A OPENER: In the night's first match, Honduras needed just a 58th minute goal by midfielder Emil Martinez to defeat Canada 1-0 at Estadio 3 de Marzo tonight (Feb. 3). Martinez, who scored the game winner in a 1-0 win over Haiti on Nov. 16 in the first leg of their difficult second round Olympic Qualifying Tournament, again provided the lone goal when he ran on to a square ball at the top of the box that midfielder Clifford Laing dummied and stroked it past Canadian 'keeper Andrew Olivieri. Honduras, who held Canada to just two shots on goal in the match, had a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 on an 80th minute penalty kick, but second-half sub Walter Martinez lifted his shot over the crossbar. Below are the updated standings, results and upcoming schedule for Group A:
Group A Standings
Team GP W L T GF GA GD Pts.
USA 1 1 0 0 4 3 +1 3
Honduras 1 1 0 0 1 0 +1 3
Canada 1 0 1 0 0 1 -1 0
Panama 1 0 1 0 3 4 -1 0
Group A Results
Tue., Feb. 3
Honduras 1, Canada 0
USA 4, Panama 3
Thu., Feb. 5
Panama vs. Honduras 6 p.m. (local/CT)
USA vs. Canada 8 p.m. (local/CT)
Sat., Feb. 7
Canada vs. Panama 11 a.m. (local/CT)
Honduras vs. USA 1 p.m. (local/CT)