U.S. rallies to tie Panama, 1-1
By Eloy O. Aguilar
PANAMA CITY, Panama For the second straight road game, the United States got a late goal from a second-half substitute to gain a tie in World Cup qualifying.
U.S. forward Brian Ching slipped past the tackle of a Panama defender in yesterday's World Cup qualifying match, which ended in a 1-all tie.
"I give the U.S. credit for passing character test," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. "At the end of the day, it is not certainly a perfect performance, but we are on the road and we take two points away from the home team."
Roberto Brown's goal in the 69th minute had put 106th-ranked Panama on track for a huge upset against the 10th-ranked Americans.
After three minutes of injury time had been signaled, Eddie Lewis lofted the ball and it bounced off a Panamanian player who had challenged Brian McBride. On the soggy turf, Landon Donovan turned and mishit the ball, which sliced to Jones.
Jones, who may have been in an offside position, then beat goalkeeper Donaldo Gonzalez from 8 yards for his 15th goal in 163 international appearances.
"My main thing was trying to open up the attacking lane and stay onside," Jones said. "When it came to me, I knew the keeper was trying to cheat for Landon's shot, so my thought was just to try and slide it in on the far post."
Donovan said the ball didn't come up.
"Right as I went to shoot, it hit a little puddle, stopped and it kind of came off the end of my foot," he said.
In the semifinal opener on Aug. 18, Brian Ching, of Hawai'i, scored in the 89th minute for a 1-1 tie at Jamaica.
The United States extended its unbeaten streak to 10 since a February loss to the Netherlands in an exhibition game. In the only previous meeting between the nations, the Americans won 2-1 in July 1993 at Dallas at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the regional championship.
"Once again, it was horrible conditions," U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. "Bad lightning, the pitch (field) was halfway under water. It's a shame, but we're not going to blame anything on the field. We didn't play particularly well, particularly in the second half, so you have to give everybody credit for not quitting."
Cobi Jones is surrounded by his U.S. teammates after his tying goal during second-half injury time.
The top two nations in each of three groups advance to next year's regional finals, and the United States has three games remaining Oct. 9 at El Salvador followed by home games against Panama (Oct. 13 at Washington) and Jamaica (Oct. 13 at Columbus, Ohio).
The United States, coming off a 2-0 win at home over El Salvador last weekend, squandered several early chances. While the Americans had a 4-3 advantage in shots in the first half, they were outshot 13-5 in the second.
"I still think the big part of the game was our inability to take advantage of our control in the first half where we created chances and had a lot of the play," Arena said. "Their forwards won the battle and made a difference in the second half."
Brown scored after Ricardo Phillips' initial shot was saved by Keller, who came out to make the stop. Phillips took the rebound and his second shot went off a post and rebounded to Brown, who tapped it in from in front of the goal. Fans responded by setting off flares among the crowd of about 14,500 at Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
"We played to win," Brown said. "We were careless in the last minute. I'm disappointed and saddened by the result."