USA thump Panama to prep for Olympic qualifying semis
Jerome Kiesewetter and Jordan Morris combined to seal the United States’ perfect record in Group A with a 4-0 victory over Panama in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament on Tuesday in Commerce City, Colo.
All of the goals arrived after the interval as the Americans made it three wins from three in group play and set up a winner-take-all semifinal against Mexico or Honduras on Saturday in Sandy, Utah.
Gboly Ariyibi created the opener when Fidel Escobar turned a cross into his own net shortly after halftime. Kiesewetter snatched the second goal to remove most of the tension before prompting Morris’ third. Luis Gil slotted home his second penalty kick in group play after 71 minutes to complete the scoring.
Andreas Herzog’s side entered the match with top spot in the group already assured, but Herzog threw Kiesewetter and Morris into the fray at halftime after his reserve-laden starting XI labored in the first half.
Ariyibi staked the Americans to the lead six minutes after the interval. The Chesterfield winger embarked upon an enterprising run up the left and squared toward the goal area. Escobar tried to deflect the effort away, but he poked past the goalkeeper instead.
Kiesewetter doubled the advantage two minutes later to complete a sweeping move from left to right. Ariyibi and Morris both contributed in the buildup before Gil played Kiesewetter into space on the right side of the penalty area. Kiesewetter continued his fine tournament by angling home to provide the Americans with some breathing room.
Morris benefited from Kiesewetter’s continued menace when he procured the third after 56 minutes. Kiesewetter burst up the right side and reached the endline. His resulting cross slipped through the soggy goal area before the unmarked Morris turned home from close range.
Gil rounded off the scoring when he stepped up to the spot and stroked the fourth goal straight down the middle.
The productive second half left the Americans to enter their crucial semifinal at Rio Tinto Stadium in the best possible form. It is now down to them to sustain it for one more game and cinch their ticket to Rio in the process.