Inspired Panama earns third place at Gold Cup

PANAMA 1 (3), U.S. 1 (2)

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - FROM NEWS SER­VICES AND STAFF RE­PORTS

Backup goal­keeper Luis Me­jia saved two penalty kicks in the shootout, and an inspired Panama team ended a try­ing week with a medal af­ter it de­feated the United States in the CONCACAF Gold Cup third-place game Satur­day in Ch­ester, Pa.

Panama won the shootout, 3-2, af­ter ex­tra time ended with the score 1-1. Me­jia saved DaMar­cus Beasley’s shot in the fifth round in what might have been the vet­eran de­fender’s last game for the na­tional team.

Panama was on the verge of beat­ing Mexico in Wed­nes­day’s semi­fi­nals de­spite be­ing down to 10 men but was called for a dis­puted hand ball in the area. Mexico con­verted the penalty kick in stop­page time, then scored on another penalty kick in ex­tra time for the 2-1 win.

The Pana­ma­nian fed­er­a­tion’s pres­i­dent later al­leged the match was fixed, and play­ers were seen ar­riv­ing at PPL Park wear­ing Tshirts that read, “Dig­nity isn’t bought.”

It was another shaky per­for­mance by the Amer­i­cans. They had their worst Gold Cup fin­ish since los­ing to Colom­bia dur­ing a shoot-out in the 2000 quar­ter­fi­nals.

Roberto Nurse scored for Panama in the 55th minute. Clint Dempsey evened the game in the 70th with his tour­na­ment-high sev­enth goal. U.S. learns path to Rus­sia

The U.S. men’s na­tional team was placed in Group C with Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF semi­fi­nal round of qual­i­fy­ing for the 2018 World Cup. Group pair­ings for 141 teams were an­nounced in St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia.

The Amer­i­cans’ other two Group C op­po­nents will come from a pair of play­offs: St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines against Aruba, and An­tigua and Bar­buda against Gu­atemala.

The U.S.-led quar­tet will be­gin play Nov. 7. Each team will play one another home and away for a to­tal of six matches a piece, cul­mi­nat­ing in Septem­ber 2016. Two of the four teams will ad­vance to the fi­nal round of CONCACAF qual­i­fy­ing.

Three of the six CONCACAF fi­nal­ists will earn au­to­matic berths to the World Cup in Rus­sia. A fourth will en­ter a twogame play­off against Asia’s fifth­place fin­isher in Novem­ber 2017.

Re­gard­less of the pre­lim­i­nary draw re­sults, Coach Jur­gen Klins­mann’s crew would have been ex­pected to ad­vance to CONCACAF’s fi­nal round. But it re­ceived an eas­ier path than the other heavy­weights by avoid­ing Honduras and Panama in the semi­fi­nal stage.

— Steven Goff

Else­where at the draw cer­e­mony, 2010 world cham­pion Spain was paired with 2006 win­ner Italy, and another Euro­pean qual­i­fy­ing group will fea­ture soc­cer’s old­est in­ter­na­tional ri­valry, Eng­land against Scot­land. In likely the tough­est group, the Nether­lands was placed with France and Swe­den. Sepp Blat­ter, the out­go­ing FIFA pres­i­dent, ap­peared at a ma­jor public event for the first time since Amer­i­can and Swiss crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion in the sport were un­sealed two months ago. He was joined on stage by Valdimir Putin and said to the Rus­sian leader, “Thank you, Pres­i­dent Putin. You make us happy and com­fort­able.”

— As­so­ci­ated Press

MATT ROURKE/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Graham Zusi gets past Panama’s Erick Davis. The U.S. had its worst Gold Cup show­ing since 2000.

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