The USMNT fell to Panama in a messy Copa America group game clash

ATLANTA — Tim Weah is usually cool and cool on the soccer field, but in a crazy moment Thursday, the 24-year-old winger put the U.S. national team in a scary spot. Because of that, the Copa America quarter-final chances are now in the balance.

Weah received a red card in the 18th minute for punching an opponent in the back of the head.

Despite the situation, the Americans actually took the lead in the 22nd minute after Weah was sent off on a sensational goal by Fowler Balogun. But before Jose Fajardo’s 83rd-minute goal, Panama used its man advantage to respond quickly and put the United States under pressure.

“A win tonight would have put us in a better position, unfortunately it was the opposite,” captain Christian Pulisic said. “The way we did it was very disappointing. Timmy knows what he did wrong. That’s all. He’s going to learn from it. It sucks. It hurts. It’s a lapse in judgment, it’s a simple second.

Monday’s Group C final draw against Uruguay in Kansas City, Mo. would have produced high drama. But with that loss, the U.S. (1-1-0) must beat Uruguay (2-0). -0), the 15-time tournament champion that defeated Bolivia 5-0, later Thursday in East Rutherford, NJ.

“We have to represent our country with passion and pride,” Pulisic said. “We’ve got to go and play the best game of our lives.”

Failure to get out of the group stage would be a major embarrassment for the US team, which will use this high-profile tournament to prepare for the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

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“It’s a huge honor to represent a national team,” said coach Greg Berhalter, who is in his second term after leading the team to the 2022 World Cup. “There are a lot of expectations with that. A very disappointing result today. But the effort was there, if we put in the same kind of effort in terms of work effort and unity, we’ll have a shot.

Panama (1-1-0) also finished with 10 men after Adalberto Carrasquilla was red-carded for a brutal foul on Pulisic in the 88th minute. By then, however, Fajardo, a former DC United striker, had scored an eight-yard one-timer through the hands of backup goalkeeper Ethan Horvath before 59,145 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Although Team USA has lost only two of their previous 26 meetings, Panama has become a formidable foe. The teams split their 2022 World Cup qualifiers, each winning on home soil, and Panama won the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-finals in a shootout.

As in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Bolivia in Arlington, Tex., the Americans scored a set piece early — except it didn’t count. Not long after the celebrations had died down, referee Evan Barton used video review to rule that Tim Ream was offside when he set up Weston McKenney’s shot.

After eleven minutes, Weah was sent off for punching Roderick Miller during an exchange of balls in midfield. Initially a yellow card, Barton returned to the video before upgrading it to a red.

According to the match rules, a player receiving a red card is prohibited from speaking to the media. Berhalter and the players said Weah apologized to the team after the match.

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“Stupid decision by Timmy. He stood up and took responsibility for it straight away,” said Berhalter. In his club and national team career, Weah had another red card.

“We can’t do that,” said defender Chris Richards, who was shown a yellow card in the second half. “It cost the team. I know he is hurting right now.

However, the USA went ahead on Balogun’s stunning smash in the 22nd minute. Anthony Robinson intercepted a pass in the Panama end and exchanged passes with Balogun. The striker’s rasping one-timer from the top of the penalty area kissed high off the far post for his second goal of the tournament and the fifth of his American career.

Panama responded four minutes later. Robinson disrupted Cesar Blackman’s initial bid from the top of the box, but Blackman stayed with it and drove a sliding shot beyond Matt Turner’s reach into the left corner.

Turner suffered a leg injury in the first half after a Panamanian tackled him. He remained in the game until halftime, but did not return for the second half.

That incident was one of many problems the American team had with Barton.

“Think about it: He took Matt out of the game, nothing,” Berhalter said after Barton didn’t issue a card.

“You can blame the ref, but we still lost the game,” Richards said. “We have to do better, we can’t let these things happen.”

Barton and video review were again in the spotlight in the 63rd minute when he awarded Panama a penalty kick. But after a review, he determined that Cameron Carter-Vickers had not actually fouled Fajardo.

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The Americans had a chance to go ahead in the 81st minute when McKenney’s cross was headed in by substitute Ricardo Pepi. But Panama made the most of the late opportunity.

“Look at the chances we gave up [in the second half]it’s really just that one moment where the guy gets an open look,” Berhalter said. “We didn’t handle the first ball well. We didn’t handle the second ball well, and then there’s a gap between our center backs on the cross.

The goal – and the result – left the team in disarray with a set of matches remaining.

“It’s a must-win game,” Ream said. “It’s a knockout game and an early game.”

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