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Panama passes USMNT; World Cup scenarios

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This international break could hardly have gone worse for the United States men’s national team.

A home loss to Costa Rica was met Tuesday by an anything-but-encouraging 1-1 draw at Honduras, and CONCACAF’s other results put the U.S. outside the automatic qualifying places ahead of its final two matches of qualifying (home to Panama and away to Trinidad and Tobago).

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Now a loss at home to Panama would limit the Americans hopes of qualifying for the World Cup to a playoff versus Australia or Syria at best, and that loss would need to be coupled by outdueling Honduras on points and goal differential during the final round.

Even a draw against Panama is problematic thanks to Los Canaleros moving past the USMNT on goal differential.

Costa Rica 1-1 Mexico

Los Ticos are not quite joining their visitors in the World Cup, but are a point away thanks to Marco Urena’s 83rd minute bullet equalizer. A Cristian Gamboa own goal has CRC waiting until October to punch its ticket to Russia.

Panama 3-0 Trinidad and Tobago

Gabriel Torres and Abdiel Arroyo goals joined a T&T own goal in moving Panama into third place with 10 points ahead of Los Canaleros‘ October 6 visit to Orlando.


Mexico — 17 pts, +8 GD
Costa Rica — 15 pts, +7 GD
Panama — 10 pts, +2 GD (three automatic WC spots)
USMNT — 9 pts, +1 GD (playoff vs. Syria/Australia winner)
Honduras — 9 pts, -7 GD
Trinidad and Tobago — 3 pts, -11 GD


The Yanks can pull two points ahead of Panama with a win in Orlando to kick off the next round of qualifying, and would be three points and a healthy amount of goal differential clear of Honduras should it win and see Costa Rica win at home vs. Honduras.

If the U.S. loses to Panama, it cannot finish in an automatic qualifying spot.

Oct. 6
USMNT vs. Panama
Costa Rica vs. Honduras
Mexico vs. Trinidad and Tobago

Oct. 10
Trinidad and Tobago vs. USMNT
Panama vs. Costa Rica
Honduras vs. Mexico


CONCACAF WCQ: Mexico qualify; Honduras draw level with USMNT

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A roundup of all of Friday’s 2018 World Cup qualifiers in North and Central America and the Caribbean…

USA 0-2 Costa Rica

For the first time since 1958, the U.S. national team has lost two home games during the same cycle of WCQ. Marco Ureña scored both goals for Los Ticos, Tim Ream and Geoff Cameron endured nightmare evenings at center back, Bruce Arena stranded Michael Bradley on a midfield island, and the honeymoon period is over for Arena and Co., just like that. Tuesday’s matchup with Honduras just became the biggest game of the last three years.

Mexico 1-0 Panama

Oh, the difference four years can make. An entire World Cup cycle ago, Mexico were seconds from failing to qualify for the inter-continental playoffs, let alone the finals tournament in Brazil itself. Only the miracle of all miracles rescued El Tri from the ultimate embarrassment of missing the World Cup as one of CONCACAF’s two giants.

Fast forward 47 months, and Juan Carlos Osorio’s Mexico is the first from the region to qualify for next summer’s tournament in Russia, with three games of the Hexagonal still to play. Friday’s 1-0 victory over Panama which puts Mexico on 17 points, coupled with the USMNT’s loss, means El Tri have clinched a top-three place.

Hirving Lozano scored the game’s only goal, a 53rd-minute header.

Trinidad and Tobago 1-2 Honduras

Los Catrachos have risen from the dead, thanks to the rare road win in CONCACAF. Alexander Lopez scored the game’s opening goal in the 7th minute, and Houston Dynamo winger Alberth Elis tacked on what would turn out to be the game-winning goal just 10 minutes later.

Honduras held on, in desperate fashion, after Alvin Jones was sent off in the 58th minute, reducing T&T to 10 minute for the final half-hour. Seattle Sounders left back Joevin Jones converted from the penalty spot in the 67th minute, but that’s as close as the Soca Warriors would get. With the victory, Honduras are level with the USMNT, for third place (automatic qualification), on eight points, trailing only on goal differential. Those very sides will face off Tuesday evening in San Pedro Sula.

Updated CONCACAF WCQ standings

1. Mexico — 17 points, +8 GD
2. Costa Rica — 14 points, +7 GD
3. USA — 8 points, +1 GD
4. Honduras — 8 points, -7 GD
5. Panama — 7 points, -1 GD
6. Trinidad and Tobago — 3 points, -8 GD

USMNT-Costa Rica preview

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The CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table is tight, and will have many U.S. Soccer supporters feeling nervy ahead of Friday’s home tilt against Costa Rica in New Jersey.

With John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin out with injury, the anxiety is a bit higher. And memories of a 4-0 shellacking in Costa Rica that cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job won’t help things, either.

That said… everybody exhale.

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As noted in Wedneday’s Four Keys post, the Yanks of this generation don’t lose meaningful home games to Costa Rica, and Los Ticos have not been impressive in World Cup qualifying aside from that beatdown last November.

In fact, Costa Rica has struggled to perform on away days this year, especially when considering the opposition:

July 22 – at USA – L 0-2
March 28 – at Honduras – D 1-1
March 24 – at Mexico – L 0-2
Jan. 22 – at Panama – L 0-1

Los Ticos like to work the right of the field, putting pressure on the left side of the opposition. That means another big test for Jorge Villafana (probably), as well as left midfielder Fabian Johnson and whoever Bruce Arena slots into left center back.

Six points from these next two matches, Friday and then Tuesday in Honduras, essentially assures the Yanks a berth in Russia (It would take a home loss to Panama and a road loss to Trinidad and Tobago in October plus other results going against them to defy that assertion).

Best case scenario

In fact, the U.S. has a potential major ally in rivals Mexico. Should the Yanks win both their matches and El Tri do the same — Mexico plays Panama and Costa Rica — the table will look something like this come Tuesday. The Yanks would then want T&T to draw visiting Honduras (possible) and beat Panama in Panama (unlikely).

Mexico — 20 points
USMNT — 14 points
Costa Rica — 11 points
Panama — 7 points
T&T — 7 points
Honduras — 6 points

In this scenario, the spot in Russia is clinched and we’re watching Weston McKinnie and Christian Ramirez in October.

Worst case scenario

What does the unlikelihood of two USMNT losses do to their chances? Obviously, it’s not good, and Mexico could become the Yanks’ biggest enemy. In this scenario, Costa Rica wins both their USMNT and Mexico tests, while Mexico draws Panama. Los Canaleros, in turn, smash Trinidad and Tobago in Panama City on Tuesday, with T&T also losing to Honduras, and the table looks like this:

Costa Rica — 17 points
Mexico — 15 points
Panama — 11 points
Honduras — 11 points
USMNT — 8 points
T&T — 3 points

Again… that’s not happening but these are the facts. Even then, the Yanks would control their own fourth place/playoff destiny (at least) with a home match against Panama in October before closing out the Hex at likely last place T&T.

Full schedule

USMNT vs. Costa Rica — 6:55 p.m. ET
T&T vs. Honduras — 8 p.m. ET
Mexico vs. Panama — 9:30 p.m. ET

Honduras vs. USMNT — 5:36 p.m. ET
Costa Rica vs. Mexico — 10:05 p.m. ET
Panama vs. T&T — 10:05 p.m. ET

Own goal sends Costa Rica past Panama (video)

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An Anibal Godoy own goal was the difference as Costa Rica nipped Panama for a semifinal spot in the 2017 Gold Cup with a 1-0 win on Wednesday in Philadelphia.

Costa Rica moves onto play the winner of the United States and El Salvador, with that match kicking off at 9:15 p.m. ET.

[ MORE: Where does Morata rank in PL? ]

A tight first half opened up for both sides in the second, at least in terms of chances.

Panama’s Miguel Camargo (NYCFC) was a huge part of Los Canaleros’ counterattacking plans, and used the left wing to his advantage in testing Patrick Pemberton with a cross.

At the other end, it became clear that Panama backstop Jose Calderon was up for the challenge of upsetting Costa Rica, stopping a hard toe-poke from Bryan Ruiz amongst a series of second-half stops.

New York Red Bulls man Michael Murillo sprung onto a chance for Panama in the 64th minute, but couldn’t wrap his foot around the chance.

With Pemberton and Calderon both having solid nights, it was going to take something unusual for a breakthrough.

That came from San Jose Earthquakes center back Godoy, who rose to clear a Costa Rican free kick only to see his header slip back behind Calderon.

The Panama backstop made a pair of saves in the following stages to keep it 1-0, though Los Canaleros rarely looked ready to send the match to penalty kicks.

FOLLOW LIVE – Gold Cup quarterfinals doubleheader

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
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Panama and Costa Rica square off Wednesday for the right to — in all likelihood — face the United States men’s national team in the 2017 Gold Cup semifinal.

Los Canaleros and Los Ticos meet at 6:15 p.m. ET in Philadelphia, three hours before the reinforced USMNT faces El Salvador at the same location.

[ LIVE: Gold Cup scoreboard ]

The U.S. has never lost to El Salvador, and now boasts knockout round call-ups of Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard, Darlington Nagbe, Clint Dempsey, and Jesse Gonzalez. Dempsey enters the game one goal behind Landon Donovan for the most markers in USMNT history.

As for the first game, Los Canaleros won a home friendly against Costa Rica in January but have not won a meaningful match against Los Ticos this century.