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How the USMNT lost to Panama and put their Copa America future at risk at the same time

A red card and a defensive lapse kicked the United States out of the driver's seat ahead of a crucial match with Uruguay.

6 min read
Design: Peyton Gallaher

ATLANTA, Ga. — Nearly 60,000 voices roared in ecstasy.

As Weston McKennie’s strike hit the back of the net in the fifth minute, the crowd erupted at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Up 1-0 in a game that could have clinched the U.S. men’s national team a spot in the quarterfinals of the Copa America, fans had every reason to celebrate. That is, until the goal was correctly called back for offside.

The early disallowed goal sequence embodied the USMNT’s disastrous 2-1 loss to Panama on Thursday. 

It was an evening of highs that quickly soured and became lows. The lowest low of the match came in the just the 16th minute when Tim Weah committed a red card offense by throwing his hand towards the head of Panamanian defender Roderick Miller. Weah was sent off for his wrongdoing, leaving the United States with just 10 players for the last 70-plus minutes of the match:

"Tim got bumped, he got checked, and he reacted," U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said after the game, dispelling any idea that words were exchanged between Weah and Miller prior to the foul. "He apologized to the group. And I think he understands what a difficult position he put the group in."

There’s little doubt that Weah’s early red card changed everything for the United States. It threw Berhalter’s initial gameplan out the window and forced the U.S. to react, rebuilding the plane as they flew through the rest of the first half and beyond. Despite a promising goal from Folarin Balogun that put the USMNT up 1-0 in the 22nd minute, Panama quickly equalized before scoring a late game-winner in the 83rd.

If the U.S.’s gameplan went out the window, so did their chances of locking up a spot in the quarterfinals with three points against Panama.

With the loss, the United States find themselves in a difficult positio. They could beat Uruguay on Monday in their final group stage match and still go home if Panama beat Bolivia by a wide enough margin to make up for the goal differential gap that currently separates the two teams. Though Uruguay will undoubtedly rest players after seeing themselves through to the quarters, there’s still an uphill battle facing Berhalter’s and co.

Here’s how the USMNT lost to Panama and put their Copa America future at risk at the same time. 

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