GEORGE MURPHY - Thursday, March 13, 2008
After an embarassing showing against Cuba on Tuesday, Peter Nowak's United States Olympic team regrouped to defeat Panama in a tense match between the two CONCACAF foes in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Nowak continued to tinker with his lineup, starting Maurice Edu at center back, Marvell Wynne and Michael Orozco along with him on the back line. Sacha Kljestan, Eddie Gaven and Stuart Holden also moved into the lineup.
The action started right from the whistle, with Dax McCarty unable to get his head onto a cross in the box in the first minute. However, six minutes later, Panama barely missed out on converting a corner after some lax defending by the Yanks in Chris Seitz's goal box.
Freddy Adu continued his threatening runs at opposing defenders in the tournament and was able to win a free kick on the right side in the 20 minute but the serve was off and cleared by the Panamanians.
The Americans continued to press forward, and five minutes later Gaven was released in the box by Sacha Kljestan, but Gaven was unable to pick out Josmer Altidore in the box and the ball went out for a corner.
Adu came up with nothing but air on a one-time effort from Gaven on the right side of the Panama goal box in the 29th minute, but the ball found Holden who dropped it off for McCarty whose effort deflected off of the Panama defender for a corner kick.
In the 42nd minute, Benfica's Adu converted a penalty after Altidore was fouled by Panamanian goalkeeper Jose Calderon - earning the stopper a yellow in the process.
The first half ended with Seitz and Panama striker Gabriel Torres exchanging pushes after Torres kicked out at Seitz when he was going up for the ball. Edu and Wynne played peacemakers as the squads headed to the dressing rooms.
Panama continued dominating the foul category in the second half, taking down Gaven after splitting two defenders on the left side while going to goal. The free kick resulted in Holden blasting it into the box, nearly causing an own goal.
The physical play by Panama continued in the 53rd when Adu was punched in the side by Manuel Bonilla and the central Americans' questionable sportsmanship continued as they played on instead of playing it out as the Yank lay prone on the turf.
Two minutes later, Panama striker Alberto Quintero was shown yellow for blatant diving while trying to earn a penalty.
The United States struggled throughout the rest of the half to put Panama away with a second goal. Altidore was pulled down right next to the right side corner flag in the 71st minute after nutmegging a defender, but Adu's shot was saved after he tried to catch Calderon napping on his near post.
Two minutes later Adu continued to show flashes of attacking brilliance as he beat two players on left, tightroped the goal line, played it off to Holden who was fouled and earned a dangerous free kick which ended up wide of the target.
Seitz was rarely called on in the game, but had to see the ball out of bounds from an Edwin Aguilar shot which went well wide in the best and last chance for Panama to equalize.
Pushing and shoving ended the match as Altidore was being subbed off for Charlie Davies. The Panama players decided to help the 18-year old striker off of the pitch, which the United States players took offense to.
Robbie Findlay was brought on for Adu to end the game, and see the United States all-but-through to the next round as they face Honduras on Saturday evening in Raymond James Stadium.