The U.S. national soccer team's unbeaten streak reached 10 games with its 1-1 tie against Panama on Wednesday night in Panama City, but the manner in which the Americans have maintained their run has left the coaches and players inspired and concerned at the same time.
For the second consecutive World Cup qualifier on the road, the United States failed to convert its first-half opportunities and was outplayed in the second half before scoring a late, dramatic goal to sneak out with a draw. Last month, newcomer Brian Ching silenced a delirious crowd in Kingston, Jamaica, with a late equalizer. On Wednesday in similarly raucous circumstances, veteran Cobi Jones struck in the final seconds.
"That's why you play the whole game -- not 89 minutes, not 87 minutes, not 90 minutes, you play until it's done -- and we don't give up," said midfielder-forward Landon Donovan, who was involved in both Ching's and Jones's goals.
During the 10-game unbeaten run, which comprises five friendlies and five qualifiers, the U.S. squad has scored the winning or tying goal in the waning moments five times.
"I give the U.S. credit for passing a character test," U.S. Coach Bruce Arena said of the latest comeback.
Arena was concerned about his team's failure to finish its scoring opportunities during a dominant first half against the lightly regarded Panamanians. The Americans moved the ball smoothly and kept possession for long stretches, but their chances in the penalty area were limited.
In the second half, Panama played with more energy, dictated the pace and found ample space in the U.S. defense, particularly on the right flank.
Roberto Brown's goal in the 70th minute stood up until Jones's low shot two minutes into injury time after Donovan's attempt was slowed by a puddle.
"What's disappointing," goalkeeper Kasey Keller said late Wednesday, "is that we knew they'd be strong going forward and we knew if we kept possession we could limit their chances and slow them down. But we still had trouble doing that . . . They were coming at us because of our lack of composure and our mistakes. We didn't play particularly well, especially in the second half, but we didn't give up."
-- Steven Goff