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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

U.S. men make quick work of Panama

Associated Press

PANAMA CITY, Panama – The United States cut through Panama’s defense like the canal that divides the isthmus.

Carlos Bocanegra, Landon Donovan and Brian McBride overwhelmed Panama with first-half goals, and the Americans won Wednesday night’s qualifier 3-0 to move into commanding position to secure their fifth straight World Cup berth.

Bocanegra scored off Donovan’s corner kick in the sixth minute, Donovan got his third goal in two games in the 20th and McBride took advantage of a defensive mistake in the 40th. Kasey Keller made the lead stand up with his second straight strong performance in goal, getting his 39th career shutout in 81 games.

The Americans (4-1) are second at the midpoint of the final round of the North and Central American region with 12 points, one behind Mexico (4-0-1), which beat visiting Trinidad and Tobago 2-0.

Costa Rica and Guatemala (both 1-2-1) played later Wednesday and had four points, as does Trinidad and Tobago (1-3-1). Panama (0-3-2) is nearly out of contention with two points.

The top three nations qualify for next year’s tournament, and the No. 4 team meets Bahrain, Kuwait or Uzbekistan in a home-and-home playoff for another berth. The Americans have three home games left, including matchups with T&T and Panama, the two weakest teams in the group.

It was a steamy 81 degrees with 89 percent humidity at game time, and a just-short-of-capacity crowd of about 23,000 filled Estadio Rommel Fernandez, a low structure with a track surrounding the field and poor lighting.

The fans, nearly all dressed in Panama red, honked horns, beat drums and banged inflatable Thunder Stix. They booed at the end of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” then booed as Panamanian players walked off the field at halftime.

It was just the fifth win for the United States in 17 qualifiers in Central America.

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