Panama scores late goal, beats shorthanded US 2-1 at Copa America after Weah red card

Weah was sent off by Salvadoran referee Iván Barton with a straight red card for punching Roderick Miller in the back of the head. Weah issued a public apology on social media.
Panama's Cesar Blackman celebrates after scoring the equaliser against the United States during a Copa America Group C soccer match in Atlanta, Thursday, June 27, 2024.
Panama's Cesar Blackman celebrates after scoring the equaliser against the United States during a Copa America Group C soccer match in Atlanta, Thursday, June 27, 2024.(Photo | AP)

ATLANTA: Tim Weah threw an inexcusable punch, and the United States took a huge blow to its hopes of advancing at the Copa America.

José Fajardo beat backup goalkeeper Ethan Horvath in the 83rd minute to give Panama a 2-1 victory on Thursday night over the shorthanded Americans, putting the host country in danger of elimination if it doesn’t beat Uruguay in its first-round finale.

The US played most of the game a man down after Weah was sent off in the 18th minute.

“You never mean to get a red card. Under no type of circumstances,” teammate Tyler Adams said. “He apologized to the team.”

Weah issued a public apology on social media.

“I let my team and my country down,” he said. “A moment of frustration let to an irreversible consequence, and for that I am deeply sorry to my teammates, coaches, family and our fans.”

Weah was sent off by Salvadoran referee Iván Barton with a straight red card for punching Roderick Miller in the back of the head.

“A silly, silly decision by Timmy that leaves us shorthanded,” coach Gregg Berhalter said.

Folarin Balogun put the US ahead in the 22nd minute but César Blackman tied the score in the 26th.

Horvath, who replaced injured Matt Turner at halftime, couldn’t prevent Fajardo’s close-range shot from going through his arms, and Panama beat the US for just the third time in 27 meetings.

“A win tonight would have put us in a great position, and unfortunately the opposite happened,” American captain Christian Pulisic said. “I’m proud of the effort that we responded with after obviously what happened (with Weah), but just really disappointed that’s the way we did it.”

The US, which opened with a 2-0 win against Bolivia, plays 15-time Copa champion Uruguay on Monday at Kansas City, Missouri.

For US to advance, it must either beat Uruguay and have a greater goal difference than Panama if Panama beats Bolivia; tie Uruguay while Panama and Bolivia also draw; or lose to Bolivia while finishing with a better goal difference than Panama and Bolivia. The US is plus-one, Panama minus-one and Bolivia plus-seven.

“We believe in this group,” Berhalter said. “It’s a strong team. I think if we stay focused and stick to and execute a game plan, we’ll be OK.”

But failing to advance in the biggest test for the Americans ahead of the 2026 World Cup certainly would raise questions about whether Berhalter should remain in charge.

He got that very query not long after the final whistle.

“If we don’t qualify for the next round, should my job be in the line?” Berhalter said, cutting right to the point. “That’s not for me to determine.”

Weston McKennie appeared to put the US ahead in the fifth minute but the goal was disallowed for offside.

Panama also finished a man short after Adalberto Carrasquilla was given a red card in the 88th for chopping down Pulisic from behind. The US threw everyone forward in a desperate attempt to tie the game -- including Horvath -- but Panama held.

Panama lost to Uruguay 3-1 in its opene r and closes group play in Orlando, Florida, against Bolivia, a team with 14 straight Copa America losses after a 5-0 rout by the Uruguayans in the late game Thursday night.

“I’m super happy with the victory,” Panama coach Thomas Christiansen said. “I think it’s also well deserved, because we have read the game rightly. Even though they were missing a player for a long time, you had to score the goals to win this game. And when the score was 1-0, the situation was complicated, even if you played with one more, with the quality that the United States has shown.”

Now, it’s the Panamanians — not the Americans — who have the upper hand to move on.

“I have clear ideas, my team also has clear ideas, about what it is capable of doing,” Christiansen said. “We have achieved three fabulous points”.

A pro-American crowd of 59,145 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was irate after Weah’s ejection, especially after several other calls went against the home team, but there was little question that the US player deserved the red card.

Chris Richards’ header from Pulisic’s corner kick was deflected off the crossbar by goalkeeper Orlando Mosquera, and a video review determined Tim Ream was offside when he poked the ball to McKennie, who put the ball in from near the penalty spot.

Blackman did not receive a card when he collided in the 12th minute with a leaping Turner, who landed awkwardly on his right arm and was down for several minutes while being tended to by medical personnel.

Balogun scored after a sloppy clearance. Antonee Robinson dribbled into the penalty area and passed to the striker. Balogun exchanged taps with Robinson and curled a shot from the edge of the area off the inside of the far post and in for his fifth goal in 14 appearances.

Blackman tied the score in the 26th when he took a pass from Carrasquilla at the arc, dribbled around Robinson and shot through the legs of Richards and just past Turner’s outstretched arm.

Berhalter made three substitutions to start the second half. Turner left with a bruised left leg and Horvath entered in his first game for club or country since May 4.

Turner’s status for the next match is not known. Weah won’t dress because of the red card.

The Americans benefitted from a video review in the 63rd minute after Cameron Carter-Vickers, another substitute, was whistled for taking down Fajardo in the area. The call was reversed when a video review showed Fajardo already had crossed the ball when Carter-Vickers made contact.

Panama held possession for a staggering 73.6% of the match and outshot the US 13-6, leaving the big crowd with little to do except express its displeasure at the officiating.

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