The U.S. could not hold on to third place, and were disappointed to be defeated by Panama 3-2 in Saturday’s match for the Gold Cup third-place medal. Also noticeable during this year’s Gold Cup finals were some very noticeable mistakes made by a member of the officiating crew during the semifinal game between Panama and Mexico. Alfredo Hawit, the president of CONCACAF, addressed the controversy, saying that to err is human and is a part of the game.
To the Americans, the third place medal was a consolation prize played in a small arena, and when compared to the huge arena of the Gold Cup final, it was nothing they could be proud of. For most of the match, it was plain to see that the American team did not want to be there, and that is the reason they lost. A championship match always comes down to who wants it more, and when the players really want to win, they work harder and are more motivated than their opponents.
Saturday’s game came down to penalty shots. The backup goaltender for Panama blocked penalty kicks by DeMarco Beasley and Michael Bradley, after which he was so thankful, he dropped to his knees with his hands up to God. Fabian Johnson’s spot kick floated over the net. Panama’s Harold Cummings, whose very self-confident shot beat Brad Guzan inside the left goal post, delivered the crucial penalty kick. The U.S. lost to Panama because they could not accept a third place Gold Cup medal. For most of the match, the U.S. could have easily put the crowd of over 12,000 to sleep with the offense it had played against Costa Rica, in which they were more aggressive and motivated, making for a much more exciting game.
In Chester, Pa., Hawit explained that Mark Geiger, the officiating referee, had accepted that he made mistakes in the semifinal match between Mexico and Panama, and they had “impacted the outcome.” There were two specific calls which enraged Panama. The first was when Geiger issued a red card to Luis Tejada at the 25-minute mark. Despite the penalty, which meant having to play with 10 men, Panama was still able to take the lead 1-0. However, Geiger issued a hand-ball penalty on Roman Torres after he fell on the ball, which led to a penalty kick by Andres Guardado to give control of the match to Mexico. The final stage of a CONCACAF World Cup match had not been officiated by an American before last year’s World Cup, when the honor was given to Geiger. Hawit replaced Jack Warner as president of CONCACAF when Warner and Jeffery Webb were indicted on bribery, money laundering, and racketeering charges in May of 2015.
According to FOX sports, someone in the CONCACAF Gold Cup leading body, who asked to be anonymous, said that Costa Rica and Panama have officially requested a review of the refereeing procedures, Geiger, and the person responsible for allocating referees to the matches. This person asked not to be mentioned by name because he or she is not authorized to speak about the subject.
Roberto Nurse scored the first goal just prior to the 55-minute mark, allowing Panama to take a 1-0 lead. Fourteen minutes later, Clint Dempsey answered for the Americans and tied the match at 1-1. The American team only had two shots on goal compared to 13 for their opponents, but they scored on both. The U.S. had their heart set on winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and a third place consolation medal was too disappointing, which made their level of play suffer, causing them to lose to Panama.
Opinion by Katherine Miller-Chichester
FOX Sports: CONCACAF Says Referee Admits Errors in Contentious Semifinal
New York Times: United States’ Gold Cup Performance Culminates With a Whimper
Photo Courtesy of Ruth Lozano’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License