Anibal Godoy scored in the 54th minute and Panama upended the United States 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier Sunday night when American coach Gregg Berhalter started a largely second-string lineup in the middle of another hectic stretch of three matches in seven days.
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Christian Pulisic, Giovanni Reyna and Weston McKennie were out with injuries, Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson were on the bench, and Antonee Robinson didn’t travel because of British COVID-19 restrictions that would have required a quarantine on his return to England.
With the U.S. lineup far from its best, the Americans looked both nervous and overly amped for stretches of the first half. Adams entered at the start of the second half and gave away a corner kick that led to the goal on a ball he might have been able to clear.
Eric Davis’ corner was headed by the 31-year-old Godoy past goalkeeper Matt Turner and inside the far post, causing a crowd about three-quarters full to shake Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
“We’re going to look back at this and be frustrated,” Turner said. “Physically, the intensity wasn’t there. They got a huge boost from their home crowd, and we didn’t match and exceed that.”
Aaronson gave the U.S. more energy and pace, and Ricardo Pepi, DeAndre Yedlin and Cristian Roldan entered in the 67th. During the final hectic minutes, the game was interrupted twice when fans ran onto the field and a ball was thrown from the stands. The ball boys didn’t help, occasionally throwing multiple balls onto the pitch after one went out of bounds.
“I had like two or three,” Turner said. “I was just trying to get them off the field as quickly as I could. I didn’t want the game to stop anymore. People running on the field. The ball boys were throwing, kicking the balls onto the field as high as they could. And I was just trying to keep the chaos off the field as much as I could and keep our momentum going.”
The defeat ended a 13-game unbeaten streak for the Americans that included 11 wins. The match was played on the fourth anniversary of the 2-1 loss at Trinidad that ended a streak of seven World Cup appearances for the U.S., a defeat that enabled Panama to reach the World Cup for the first time.
Berhalter changed seven starters from Thursday’s 2-0 home win over Jamaica, inserting Gyasi Zardes, Kellyn Acosta, Sebastian Lletget, Timothy Weah, Shaq Moore, Mark McKenzie and George Bello. They joined Turner and three other holdovers: Walker Zimmerman, Yunus Musah and Paul Arriola.
Panama used the same starting lineup in its first three qualifiers and nine of the 11 who began Thursday’s 1-0 loss at El Salvador. Acosta repeatedly overhit corner kicks and free kicks in the early minutes.
Panama nearly went ahead in the 14th minute when Freddy Gondola crossed to an open Rolando Blackburn, who couldn’t get his foot on the ball in front of the net. Davis’ corner kick was deflected past the far post in the 27th minute.
Turner palmed a cross over the crossbar in the 28th, and in the 34th he jutted out his right arm to deflect Gondola’s point-blank shot after Acosta’s giveaway only for Panama to be whistled for offside. Turner tipped Edgar Barcenas’ shot over the bar in the 45th.
“In the first half it was probably a little bit of lack of energy and competitiveness,” Adams said. “We have to do better.”