USMNT Surprises, But Panama Delivers the Final Blow

A thrilling game full of twists and turns, with expulsions, goals, and VAR decisions that left fans both ecstatic and frustrated at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium

So, what can we say about the clash between the United States and Panama this Thursday? The USMNT, despite playing a significant portion of the game a man down, showed grit and skill. However, it was Panama that walked away smiling, securing a 2-1 victory that will certainly stir up some conversations.

Right from the start, Panama came out swinging. Before the crowd even settled into their seats, the Panamanians were already creating dangerous chances. Just two minutes in, a cross from the left found Barcenas, who attempted a spectacular bicycle kick. Defender Robinson, however, was alert and prevented the worst. But the United States wasn't left behind. At the five-minute mark, it seemed like they would take the lead. A goal by McKennie sent the stadium into a deafening roar, but unfortunately for the Americans, VAR spotted an offside, and the goal was disallowed.

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The tension escalated at the 17-minute mark when Tim Weah, in a moment of recklessness, was sent off after pushing Roderick Miller's head. With one less player, the path looked bleak for the U.S. Nonetheless, Balogun, the new fan favorite, scored a stunning goal at the 22-minute mark, firing the ball into the corner of the net and reigniting American hopes.

But Panama wasn't deterred. At 26 minutes, Blackman capitalized on a lapse in the American defense and leveled the game. The stadium fell into a momentary silence, quickly broken by the celebratory shouts of the Panamanian fans.

The second half began with strategic changes from the U.S. Injured after a brutal collision in the first half, goalkeeper Turner was replaced by Ethan Horvath, a veteran in stepping into critical games and saving the day. And it wasn’t just Turner leaving the field; Gio Reyna and Tyler Adams were also substituted, bringing fresh energy to the American team.

The match remained electrifying, with VAR once again taking center stage. At the 63-minute mark, a penalty was awarded to Panama, but after a review, it was rightly overturned, much to the relief of the Americans. The game remained open, with chances on both sides, but it was evident that the U.S. was struggling against fatigue and the numerical disadvantage.

At 84 minutes, the final blow came. Fajardo, with a perfect finish, put Panama ahead. The stadium, which had been in a frenzy, fell into an uncomfortable silence. The frustration of the American players was palpable, but the game still had more drama in store. Just two minutes later, Panama's Carrasquilla was sent off, leveling the playing field again. However, time was the enemy for the U.S., and Panama managed to hold onto their lead until the end.

Referee Ivan Barton had a tough night. Difficult decisions, red cards, and constant use of VAR made him lose control of the game at times. The impatient crowd booed every controversial decision, adding even more pressure on the players and officials.

The next match is against Uruguay on Monday at Arrowhead Stadium, and the United States needs to show that they've learned from the mistakes of this game.