Former Panamanian coach Julio César Dely Valdés was a player that left a great legacy with Los Canaleros as he helped usher in a great generation of players. At the same time, he was part of one of the most heartbreaking moments in that country's football history. Yet after he begins to tell ESPN Deportes on Friday evening of some of the intricacies of what happened that fateful day at the Estadio Rommel Fernández, you start to wonder if you were hearing what he was saying correctly.
"We missed out on some details," said the former Málaga and Nacional star. "Things that will leave you out of a tournament." Dely Valdés talked about the fact that he decided that the best thing for the national team after that loss was for him and his brother to step aside.
Dely Valdés also took a few seconds to gather his thoughts when he heard the name Graham Zusi, but answered that he was "a great professional" and that he didn't feel upset towards him but moreso towards him and his team not being able to get the job done.
The former Panamanian coach would also be very cordial when speaking about his replacement in Colombian coach Hernán Darío Gómez by saying he should not have a problem with the squad.
The problems would come when he was asked about his footballing roots being from Uruguay. The question came as there had been rumors of the Panamanian coaching staff looking for something to be able to freeze the game and allow the home side to come away with a victory and guarantee themselves a playoff spot for a chance to get into the World Cup.
"Around the 80-plus minute or so we began talking about sending someone to run onto the pitch so he could stop the game," he said in the interview that he gave while in Miami after he received an invitation from a Club Nacional supporters group to celebrate their 115th anniversary. "Unfortunately, when the fourth referee lift of the board to say there were three minutes left, but when (the fan) runs onto the pitch it was when the US were on a transition which ended up being the goal that equalized the score. He runs onto the middle of the pitch just as (the US) cross it and would score seconds later."
The fact that the coach and his assistant/brother even thought about this was something that had the hosts in a state of shock, to say the least especially after their Wile E. Coyote-type of ending to their World Cup campaign.
In the end, he went back and talked about how the result at Estadio Azteca and the eventual goal by Raúl Jiménez changed everything for Panama as well as for El Tri. "If it weren't for that result, the US match would have been an afterthought," Dely Valdés added.
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