The USA came from behind with two stoppage-time goals from Graham Zusi and second-half substitute Aron Johannsson to shatter Panama's World Cup dreams.
The result allows Mexico to battle on. Had the U.S. lost to Panama, Mexico, who lost to Costa Rica 2-1 on Tuesday, would have finished in fifth place and missed their first World Cup since 1982. With the U.S. win, Mexico was assured a fourth place finish ahead of Panama. The USA's rivals will now play the two-game Intercontinental Playoff against New Zealand in November, with the aggregate winner advancing to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The U.S. Men's National finished the tournament with its best-ever performance in FIFA World Cup Qualifying atop the CONCACAF region with a 7-2-1 record and 22 points. The USA is followed by Costa Rica (5-2-3, 18 points), Honduras (4-3-3, 15 points), Mexico (2-3-5, 11 points), Panama (1-4-5, 8 points) and Jamaica (0-5-5, 5 points). The top three teams automatically qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The USMNT added to its record-breaking win total to improve to 16-3-2 in 2013. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is now 27-9-6 since joining the USMNT in 2011 and is in sole possession of fourth place on the USA's all-time winning coaches list.
Klinsmann made seven starting lineup changes from the USA's lineup against Jamaica on Oct. 11. The four same starters against Panama were Jozy Altidore at the top of a 4-5-1 formation, midfielders Alejandro Bedoya and Mix Diskerud, and defender Brad Evans. Clarence Goodson and Michael Orozco were paired at center back and Evans at right back. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan made his first appearance since he split duties with Tim Howard during the USA's 4-2 loss to Belgium on May 29.
Panama scored the go-ahead goal in the 18th minute by capitalizing on an Edgar Castillo giveaway, which resulted in Gabriel Torres blasting the ball into the lower left corner of the net past U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Michael Orozco equalized 1-1 off an impeccable Brad Davis corner kick in the 64th minute in just his second appearance in this qualifying cycle. Luis Tejada put Panama ahead again in the 83rd minute for a 2-1 lead.
But 90 seconds into second-half stoppage time, Brad Davis lofted a left-footed cross over the Panamanian defense and connected with Zusi, who headed the ball into the left side of the net to tie the score 2-2. Johannsson scored the game winner from 19 yards out and buried his low shot into the left corner past diving Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. It was Johannsson's third appearance in qualifying and fourth career cap when he subbed for Diskerud in the 62nd minute.
“For me, it’s one of those things I’m most confident in with my game," said Davis. "To try and read the game, try and find good spots to where I know that my teammates can get me the ball where I feel comfortable to deliver a ball to my teammates. I know that they trust that I’m going to get a good ball in there; they make good hard runs in the box."
The U.S. Men's National team next travels to Glasgow to face Scotland on Nov. 15 and Vienna to face Austria on Nov. 19. The game against Scotland kicks off at 3 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN2, WatchESPN and UniMas. The Austria match will kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
PAN - Gabriel Torres (Marcos Sánchez) 18th minute
USA - Michael Orozco (Brad Davis) 64
PAN - Luis Tejada 83
USA - Graham Zusi (Brad Davis) 90+2
USA - Aron Johannsson (Terrence Boyd) 90+3
USA: 12-Brad Guzan; 6-Brad Evans (15-Brad Davis, 56), 21-Clarence Goodson, 3-Michael Orozco, 2-Edgar Castillo; 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 23-Kyle Beckerman, 16-Sacha Kljestan, 8-Mix Diskerud (9-Aron Johannsson, 62), 19-Graham Zusi; 17-Jozy Altidore (capt.) (14-Terrence Boyd, 76)
Subs Not Used: 1-Sean Johnson, 22-Nick Rimando, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 20-Geoff Cameron
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
PAN: 1-Jaime Penedo, 4-Carlos Rodriguez (22-Jairo Jimenez, 72), 5-Roman Torres, 23-Felipe Baloy (capt.), 17-Luis Henriquez, 6-Gabriel Gomez (2-Roberto Chen, 72), 21-Amilcar Henriquez, 8-Marcos Sanchez (18-Luis Tejada, 78), 19-Alberto Quintero, 7-Blas Perez, 9-Gabriel Torres
Subs Not Used: 3-Harold Cummings, 10-Eybir Bonaga, 11-Yairo Glaize, 12-Luis Mejia, 13-Richard Dixon, 14-Juan Perez, 15-Alex Rodriguez, 16-Rolando Blackburn, 20-Anibal Godoy
Head Coach: Julio Dely Valdes
Stats Summary: USA / PAN
Shots: 12 / 8
Shots on Goal: 7 / 5
Saves: 3 / 4
Corner Kicks: 3 / 2
Fouls: 7 / 8
Offside: 4 / 2
PAN - Luis Tejada (caution) 84th minute
Referee: Courtney Campbell (JAM)
Assistant Referee 1: Garnet Page (JAM)
Assistant Referee 2: Kedlee Powell (JAM)
Fourth Official: Jeffrey Solis (CRC)