2024 Copa America United States vs. Panama

Group C


United States 



United States vs. Panama

Game 2


“The United States lost to Panama!”

Things didn’t exactly go according to plan. 

Let’s get back to that in a sec…

Is it really a Copa America when the US plays Panama? Typically, in past years, this tournament was reserved for South American teams. Now, all of a sudden, it’s a CONCACAF showdown?

The unique thing about CONCACAF is that we have teams that often do not play friendlies against Germany, England, Italy, and Brazil. Teams like Guatemala, Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Nicaragua, and Panama. We are stuck in a nice little section of the soccer world. Our cohorts, such as Panama (don’t forget Belize), tend to think they’re valid worldwide contenders. Contenders of what? Your guess is as good as mine. Though, Panama will put up a substantial fight with just about anyone in its path. With past players like Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell (solid ones, at that), it’s a country that has a lot of talent. Add to that, Panama has something to prove every time it takes the field against the US.

The US is expected to defeat Panama every time out so the pressure is there for an American victory. 

On this occasion, in the 2024 Copa America, it was no different. The location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia. 

Timothy Weah, one of the US’s best attacking options, got a red card. The US was down to 10 men. It’s worth noting, Panama also got a red card.

Somehow, Panama persevered and won the game 2-1. Was the second goal for Panama bad defense on the US’s part? Was it poor marking in the box? You be the judge. Sometimes defense is hard to analyze because, oddly enough, it can be so simple: man-marking; anticipate instead of wait and react; first to the ball. Were those things absent for the US during Panama’s second goal? Again, you be the judge. 

Skeptics would say “no matter what, the US should beat Panama” and they could be right. It is, after all, Panama. Nothing against Panama but even some people in Panama would admit that, in terms of worldwide soccer powers, it’s a lower-ranked team. But don’t forget: Panama’s a feisty opponent for the US.

Also, you might ask yourself, “Is the US really putting out its best team?” This is a question that wages on, years down the road. Of the starting lineup against Panama, were five of those players really suited to be in that lineup? Maybe, in your mind’s eye, go through each World Cup-winning lineup and compare that with the USMNT lineup today. Which five players do you think were holding the team back? Or were you satisfied with the lineup? Either way, we’re told the 11 players on the field are the absolute best in the country. But is that really true? Don’t forget, with a different coach comes different players. You might consider the following: Don’t sit back and accept that this coach is absolutely right with his decisions. (I respect, to a point, every coach for the pressure they have with lineup decisions; it ain’t easy.) There are always other players out there. It just takes the right coach to introduce you to them. Or, hey, maybe Berhalter’s right. This team, right here, could win the FIFA World Cup.* Yet it just lost to Panama. 

* This tournament is a proving ground for the ultimate destination: a first-place trophy at the FIFA World Cup. 

About the Author

Shane Stay is a bestselling author; his most recent book is This is Our City. He has also written The Euro 2020 Book, European Soccer Leagues 2019, Major League Soccer 2019The Women’s World Cup 2019 BookThe World Cup 2018 BookWhy American Soccer Isn’t There Yet, and The Cairo Project. In 2008, he played professional soccer with St. Louis Illusion. During his career as a soccer player, he earned a Missouri club state championship with Busch Soccer Club and a Holland Cup championship with a Metro East team. In 1999, he founded the first online Current Events Game (CE Game). He has appeared on TV and has featured on numerous radio broadcasts including ESPN and NPR.



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