Adu’s Goal Leads U.S. Past Panama 1-0

By BASN Wire Services
Updated: March 14, 2008
TAMPA — Freddy Adu scored on a penalty kick in the 41st minute to help the United States’ under-23 team beat Panama 1-0 on Thursday night in the second round of Group A pool play in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying.

The Americans, coming off a 1-1 tie with Cuba on Tuesday, improved to 1-0-1, while Panama dropped to 0-2. The top two teams in the group will advance to the March 20 semifinals in Nashville, Tenn., along with the top two from Group B.

The finalists will earn spots in the Beijing Olympics.

The United States will finish group play Saturday against Honduras (2-0). Panama, which cannot advance, will play Cuba (0-1-1) on Saturday. If Cuba loses or ties, the U.S. automatically advances. Honduras already has clinched a spot in the semifinals.

“I’m really pleased with the effort,” U.S. coach Peter Nowak said. “I think our team played with a lot of heart tonight and we got the result after a very hard fight on the field. You have to give credit to Panama because they put a lot of heart into it, too.”

Adu scored after Panama goalkeeper Jose Calderon received a yellow card for tripping Josmer Altidore 15 yards from the goal during a breakaway scoring chance.

On his penalty kick, Adu struck the ball with his left foot, and it went just past Calderon’s outstretched arms into the right side of the net. The 18-year-old American star was given a yellow card in the 90th minute.

“I’m going to do whatever it takes, play with some fight, some attitude, just go out and help this team win in any way I possibly can,” said Adu, who also scored against Cuba on Tuesday night.

The United States, which had five new starters Thursday night, again had trouble converting scoring chances into goals. In the 47th minute, Calderon hit the ground to knock a shot away. Later, he stopped Holden Stuart’s free kick from 25 yards.

The United States had a brief scare in the 56th minute when Adu fell to the ground after making contact with a Panamanian player. But just as Adu was about to be placed on a stretcher, he bounced up off the ground and was playing again moments later.

NOTES: The U.S. met Honduras twice four years ago in the 2004 qualifying tournament, with the USA winning an offensive battle, 4-3, in the group phase, and falling in penalty kicks in the third-place game. Alecko Eskandarian scored a hat trick and Kyle Beckerman rounded out the scoring in the first game. Eskandarian also tallied the lone U.S. goal in the third-place game. The two games in 2004 were the fifth and sixth time the two countries have met in this age group, with the U.S. holding a 4-1-1 advantage.