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October 15, 2013
Stoppage-time goals help USA crush Panama's World Cup dreams in comeback win

PANAMA CITY -- Panama's World Cup dream came to a crashing halt on Tuesday night.

The United States scored twice in stoppage time to turn a one-goal deficit into a stunning 3-2 qualifying win at Estadio Rommel Fernandez.

The result left Los Canaleros (1-5-4, eight points) in fifth place in the CONCACAF hexagonal out of the running for the playoff spot against Oceania champion New Zealand in November. Panama has never qualified for the World Cup. The USA (23) finished atop the six-team group with a 7-1-2 record.

Mexico (2-5-3, 11), which dropped a 2-1 decision at host Costa Rica, grabed fourth place as the confederation's wildcard team.

It was the second consecutive qualifying cycle that the USA denied a Central American team an opportunity to reach the World Cup. In 2009, the Americans scored in stoppage time to register a 2-2 home draw with Costa Rica, boosting Honduras into South Africa 2010. The Ticos wound up in a playoff with Uruguay and lost.

The Panamanians seemed to be on their way to a 2-1 victory before goals by Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson dramatically and drastically changed their fortunes.

Two minutes into added time, Zusi equalized with a six-yard header off a left-wing cross by second-half substitute Brad Davis.

A minute later, Johannsson, another second-half sub, scored his first international goal from 21 yards to leave no doubt.

The Central Americans drew first blood in the 19th minute as Gabriel Torres found the back of the net. Sanchez laid off the ball to Torres at the top of the penalty area after he got on the wrong side of central defender Edgar Castillo. Torres then fired home an 18-yard bullet past goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

The Americans struck paydirt in the 64th minute. Davis, who replaced Brad Evans in the 56th minute, swung in a corner kick into the box that Michael orozco nudged it off his body past goakeeper Jaime Penedo and into the net for a 1-1 deadlock.

Four minutes later Torres tried to boost the hosts into the lead once again with a point-blank shot from six yards, but Guzan denied the Panama striker.

Johannsson almost pulled the USA ahead in the 80th minute when he grabbed a Zusi cross and fired a shot that Penedo managed to stop at the penalty spot.

A pair of second-half substitutes teamed for the go-ahead goal for Panama. Striker Luis Tejada broke a 1-1 tie in the 83rd minute as he slotted home a rebound of a Roberto Chen right-wing cross. Guzan knocked the ball away, but an onrushing Tejada put the ball away. The Panamanian ripped off his shirt in celebration and was slapped with a yellow card.

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