USMNT falls flat in Panama, suffering first loss of the Octagonal

On the four-year anniversary of failing to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the U.S. men’s national team suffered another historic World Cup qualifying defeat.

Anibal Godoy’s second-half header was all Panama needed to claim its first World Cup qualifying win ever against the Americans, earning a 1-0 victory. It was the first defeat of the octagonal round for Gregg Berhalter’s side, who failed to register a shot on goal for the first time in this new cycle.

Berhalter made seven changes to the USMNT starting lineup following Thursday’s 2-0 victory over Jamaica, but the moves didn’t give the Americans any spark in the opening 45 minutes. Matt Turner made two saves to keep the USMNT tied heading into halftime, denying Edgar Barcenas’ looping shot from outside of the box in the 44th minute.

Walker Zimmerman’s third-minute header glanced just over the crossbar, which ended up being the only dangerous effort for the USMNT.

Despite a pair of substitutions by Berhalter, it was Panama that struck first in the 53rd minute. Godoy’s header off an Eric Davis corner kick deflected in off of Gyasi Zardes, giving Panama a deserved lead and raising the pressure on the USMNT.

Ricardo Pepi came off the bench and had the best look for the Americans, slicing a shot just wide of Luis Mejia’s goal in the 69th minute.

Panama defended the rest of the way, picking up an important home victory to jump into third place in the Octagonal standings. The USMNT dropped to second place after failing to claim a third-consecutive win and will now face pressure to rebound this coming week.

The USMNT concludes its October schedule on Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio against Costa Rica. The Ticos picked up their first qualifying win of the Octagonal on Sunday, coming back to defeat El Salvador, 2-1, at home.