Late Wednesday night, as soccer-writing colleague Brian Straus noted, only “Sharknado 3” was trending higher on Twitter than the Mexico-Panama match.
To which I say: One was a fantastical, shameless disaster hoot littered with violence and scary objects flying through the air. The other was a cheesy movie.
By the time Mark Geiger was hurried off the Georgia Dome field surrounded by yellow-jacketed security officials — and presumably into the witness protection program — the first CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal was a foggy memory. The Americans had lost to the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica, had they not? Yes. Yes, they had.
The second game eclipsed everything else, but almost entirely for the wrong reasons:
Geiger red-carded Luis Tejada when a yellow card would have sufficed. This, after Mexico’s Carlos Vela was lucky not to be sent off for elbowing a Panamanian player in the stomach.
The penalty kick decision in the 88th minute that sent Mexico’s Andres Guardado to the spot under controversial circumstances late in a match for the second time in four days.
The Panamanian fans tossing plastic bottles and cups onto the field in protest.
Mexican fans joining the fray by firing bottles and cups at Panama’s bench.
Fans ignoring the pleas by both teams’ reserves and staff members to stop.
The players who began barking at one another in the area between the benches.
The melee that ensued.
More garbage, some from the upper deck, which, at Atlanta’s domed marvel, is equidistant to earth as Charon, Pluto’s largest moon.
Guardado tying the match in the 10th minute of stoppage time.
After Mexico’s penalty kick in extra time — which Geiger got right — a Panamanian player kicking the ball into the stands — twice.
Mexico’s delay tactics.
Panamanian players, on the field and sideline, raising their arms over their heads and mockingly applauding Geiger.
Panama’s mad dash at Geiger when the final whistle sounded.
Geiger in danger of being assaulted.
More Panamanian-Mexican scuffles.
In the coaches’ postgame news conferences, Panama Coach Hernan Gomez used the word “robbery” several times and said he was “disillusioned” by the sport. His Mexican counterpart, Miguel Herrera, agreed that the late penalty was incorrect and that he felt bad for the Panamanians.
Guardado said he didn’t celebrate the tying goal because Geiger’s decision left him with “a bad taste.”
Somehow, I don’t think Geiger will be assigned any CONCACAF Champions League matches involving Panamanian clubs this year.
Deep inside the arena, the Panamanian players held up a banner reading: “CONCACAF LADRONES” (thieves)
— Futbología (@futbologia) July 23, 2015
Oh, about this tournament? Two matches remain:
The United States will face Panama — if Los Canaleros show up — in the third-place match Saturday at 4 p.m. at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. Absolutely nothing is at stake. That said, Jurgen Klinsmann could do without another confederation defeat. Fox Sports 2 and Univision will provide coverage. Fox Sports 1 is showing a baseball game, while the main Fox channel is complicit in the Barcelona-Manchester United marketing tour.
Mexico will play Jamaica for the championship Sunday night at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. Fox Sports 1 and Univision will carry it. CONCACAF announced earlier Wednesday that all 66,000-plus tickets were gone. The U.S. elimination, however, will probably freshen ticket availability on the secondary market.
The champion will meet the United States on Oct. 9 in a one-game playoff to determine the CONCACAF representative in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia. (The Americans remain in contention because they won the 2013 title.)
Organizers will not finalize the playoff venue until the matchup is determined. However, the Rose Bowl has already received permission from the city of Pasadena, Calif., to host an international match on that day. So if Mexico wins the title Sunday, don’t be surprised if the playoff is staged in Arroyo Seco, a sure sellout and money-maker for CONCACAF. If Jamaica wins, expect CONCACAF to select a smaller venue.