Gold Cup: For U.S. and Panama, Perspiration, Exasperation

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By JACK BELL

Gold Cup logoBeastly heat, oppressive humidity and a mind-numbing 90 minutes were at the top of the menu for Saturday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage opener for the United States and Panama in Music City — Nashville.

The tune was anything but mellifluous, other than a few teasing flurries from each team, predominantly in the second half of the difficult 1-1 draw. The U.S. midfield tandem of Kellyn Acosta and Dax McCarty, which played so well last Saturday in the win over Ghana, was not as sharp or productive. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan kept the U.S. in the game with several reflex saves. (Check back later for our player ratings.)

Kelyn Rowe, starting in his second straight game, had two of the better chances for the U.S. in the first half hour. Only minutes into the game, Rowe emerged from the left side for a right-footed shot from 25 yards out that forced Panama’s José Calderón to make a save. With a bit more than a quarter-hour gone, Jorge Villafaña dribbled into the penalty area and dropped a pass to Rowe for another hard shot that Calderón could only parry away.

In the 26th minute, Panama fashioned a counterattack, with Miguel Carmago breaking down the left flank. He cut the ball inside and picked out the lower left corner of the goal for a shot that was deflected for a corner by U.S. goalkeeper Guzan.

With time running out during the hot and only moderately entertaining first half, Panama’s Gabriel Torres put a grass-cutting shot just inches wide of the enar post.

The U.S. finally broke through only minutes into the second half. Rowe controlled a throw-in on the left wing and made a couple of skillful moves around a defender before crossing with his left foot. Dwyer shook his mark and struck a left-footed shot that kissed the far post and rolled into the net. It was Dwyer’s second goal in only his second international appearance for the U.S.

If you thought the U.S. would then take control of the match, you would be wrong.

The lead nearly evaporated a few minutes later. aA cross from the right by Yoel Bárcenas found the head of Torres, who held off Graham Zusi for a header that Guzan palmed out. A rebound attempt flew over the bar.

But Panama continued to put on the pressure. Bárcenas took the ball to the end line and centered to Torres for a point-blank blast that Guzan reacted to but could not control. The rebound went straight to New York City FC’s Camargo who blasted a shot past Guzan to tie the match.

The U.S. returns to play on Wednesday against Martinque, then closes out group play against Nicaragua on Saturday.