Every impressive streak must come to an end at some point -- as was the case Saturday night in Tampa, Fla.
The United States fell to Panama, 2-1, marking the first time the team lost a Gold Cup group stage match in 27 games. After handling Canada in its opener, it had run its record to 24-0-2. But, first-half goals by Luis Tejada and Gabriel Gomez helped Panama end the Americans' unbeaten streak and secure its first win over the U.S. in nine tries.
While a loss to the 67th-ranked team in the world surely is disappointing, life goes on for the United States. A win Tuesday night over Guadeloupe ensures advancement to the quarterfinals. In fact, the U.S. could still tie or lose the match and get through.
Right now, Panama (2-0-0, 6 pts, +2 goal differential) has clinched a spot in the quarterfinals. It can't finish lower than second in Group C because it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with the U.S. (1-1-0, 3 pts, +1GD), which, along with Canada (1-1-0, 3 pts, -1GD), can still finish with six points. If Canada defeats Panama Tuesday night by two goals or more, it could take the top spot -- depending on how the U.S plays against Guadeloupe.
Guadeloupe (0-2-0, 0 pts, -2GD), despite being winless, can still advance if it stuns the U.S. by two goals or more and Panama tops Canada.
The U.S. will have the advantage of knowing what kind of a result it needs in order to secure second place in Group C because Canada and Panama square off two hours before its match against Guadeloupe (9 p.m., FSC).
If the U.S. wins and advances, it could face either Mexico or Jamaica in the next round, but there are plenty of variables in play, too. Both teams have had impressive starts to the tournament, with Mexico garnering a pair of 5-0 wins and Jamaica winning 4-0 and 2-0.