The U.S. did arch-rival Mexico the biggest of favors on Tuesday night, scoring twice in the closing minutes to beat Panama and help keep El Tri's World Cup hopes aliveIt had to be the strangest night in the history of CONCACAF soccer. Mexican national team fans were forced to root for arch-rival USA like their lives depended on it, and on Tuesday night the Americans saved Mexico with a rally that will long be remembered south of the border.
Trailing Panama by a goal late in their World Cup qualifier in Panama City, Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson stunned the Canaleros with a pair of finishes that gave the Americans a 3-2 victory.
The result eliminated Panama from World Cup qualifying, and secured Mexico's place in the World Cup qualifying playoff series against New Zealand. The Central Americans entered the night needing a win and a Mexico loss in order to stay alive.
Panama looked well on its way to a victory when Luis Tejada raced in to bury a chance in the 83rd minute, but the USA had one more rally left. Zusi soared into the Panama penalty area and headed home a perfect cross from Brad Davis to tie the match in the second minute of stoppage time.
Before Panama could respond to the stunning equalizer, Johannsson provided the final dagger, belting a low shot from distance to secure the victory and help save Mexico on a night when El Tri lost to Costa Rica and left its qualifying hopes up to the USA.
Panama came into the match knowing that anything but a victory would mean elimination, and the home team responded by opening the scoring in the 18th minute, with Colorado Rapids Gabriel Torres hitting a hard and low shot past Guzan. Panama nearly made it 2-0, but Brad Guzan made a vital one-handed save in the 55th minute.
With Costa Rica taking a second-half lead on Mexico, Panama's players were well aware that a win meant qualifying survival, and Tejada appeared to provide the winner. Unfortunately for the Canaleros, the Americans had other thoughts, and they pulled off the comeback to finish the Hex with a record 22 points.