First Touch

Ten-Man USMNT Fall To Panama At Copa America

Competing with 10 players for more than 70 minutes after an early red card, the U.S. Men’s National Team took the lead but ultimately fell 2-1 to Panama in its second group stage match at the 2024 Copa América. Now sitting on three points with a 1-1-0 record, the USA will continue its quest for a quarterfinal berth in the Group C finale against Uruguay on July 1 (9 p.m. ET; FS1, Univision, TUDN, Fútbol de Primera Radio).  

USMNT in action against Panama
Players and officials react after a red card is issued against Panama midfielder Adalberto Carrasquilla (8). Photo: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

USA 1 Panama 2

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A contentious contest full of incidents played before a crowd of 59,145 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium turned when U.S. winger Tim Weah was sent off in the 18th minute. The undeterred USMNT took the lead through striker Folarin Balogun just four minutes later, but subsequent goals from Panama’s César Blackman and José Fajardo—the latter with just seven minutes remaining in the second half—resulted in defeat.  

Hoping to maintain the USA’s momentum as Group C play continued, head coach Gregg Berhalter started the same lineup that engineered Saturday’s 2-0 win over Bolivia. It marked the first time he deployed identical lineups in back-to-back matches since the 2021 Gold Cup, but that XI would spend less than 20 minutes together on Thursday as Weah’s expulsion punctuated a rough, tense and eventful first half. 

First Half

The first plot twist came in just the fifth minute, when U.S. celebrations were cut short by a VAR review that nullified a goal by midfielder Weston McKennie. In the 12th, U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner was hurt in a violent collision with Panama’s César Blackman. Turner rose high and landed hard after being charged by Blackman, but after several minutes of on-field treatment on his left leg, he elected to continue. 

Minutes later, Weah was issued a yellow card for an off-the-ball incident that was changed to red upon VAR review. His foul on Panamanian defender Roderick Miller reduced the USA to 10 players and forced Berhalter to pull captain Christian Pulisic back into left midfield, creating a 4-4-1 topped by Balogun.  

Before both teams had time to fully adjust to the new circumstances, it was 1-1. The hosts struck first on a play that began when left back Antonee Robinson took advantage of a poor Panamanian clearance to race toward the penalty area and combine deftly with Balogun. The defense was frozen by the quick exchange of passes and Balogun had just enough time to lash a brilliant, first-time strike off the inside of the right post. It was the AS Monaco man’s fifth U.S. goal (in 14 appearances) and second of this Copa América. 

Panama drew level four minutes later, however, as Blackman held off Robinson and guided a low shot that deflected off Weston McKennie and between U.S. center backs Tim Ream and Chris Richards just inside the left post.  

USMNT forward Folarin Balogun (20) and Panama defender Roderick Miller
USMNT forward Folarin Balogun (20) and Panama defender Roderick Miller (25) Photo: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Second Half

Berhalter adjusted his tactics at halftime and shifted the team into a 5-3-1 with defender Cameron Carter-Vickers and midfielder Johnny Cardoso coming on in place of midfielders Tyler Adams and Gio Reyna. In addition, Turner (leg injury) made way for Ethan Horvath. Playing with three center backs between Robinson and right back Joe Scally, who manned the flanks, the U.S. absorbed Panamanian pressure and looked for opportunities via counterattack or set pieces. Horvath made a good save of a knuckling, long-range shot in the 51st and in the 63rd, a penalty kick foul whistled against Carter-Vickers was overturned by VAR. Balogun then missed the far post on a curling, right-footed bid in the 70th, just before being replaced by forward Ricardo Pepi. 


While Panama had almost all of the ball, the U.S. created another chance in the 81st, as a daring counter led to a cross from McKennie that was just a fraction too high for a leaping Pepi as his goalbound header at the left post was saved. But Panama’s pressure proved too much, and Los Canaleros took the lead in the 83rd when substitute forward José Fajardo beat Horvath from close range. 


Despite an 88th-minute red card to Panama’s Adalberto Carrasquilla for a hard foul on Pulisic that restored numerical parity, the desperate U.S. couldn’t find the equalizer. Richards headed Pulisic’s stoppage-time free kick over the crossbar on the USA’s last chance. In the end, Panama’s sustained possession (73.6% to 26.4%) and timely physicality (19 fouls to four) shaped the match over 90-plus minutes. 


It marked just the third time Panama has beaten the USA, which still holds a 17-3-7 advantage in the all-time series. Los Canaleros have improved under Danish coach Thomas Christiansen, rising from 81st in the FIFA World Ranking to 43rd since he took over in summer 2020. The two teams split their World Cup qualifying series in 2021-22 and Panama won last year’s Concacaf Gold Cup Semifinal on penalty kicks. Panama, now trailing the USA in Group C on goal difference, wore the U.S. down on Thursday with physicality and persistence. 

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Next Game

The USMNT’s Copa América fate now will be determined on July 1 as Group C concludes. The U.S. (1-1-0) will entertain 15-time champion Uruguay in Kansas City, Mo., while Panama and Bolivia meet simultaneously in Orlando, Fla. The USA has advanced beyond the group stage in two of its previous four Copa América appearances. It exited early in 1993 and 2007 and went on to reach the semis in 1995 and 2016. 

Panama midfielder Abdiel Ayarza (5) & United States forward Ricardo Pepi (9) Photo: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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