Tuesday’s soccer news starts with the rest of Concacaf World Cup qualifying in tomorrow’s finale for the October international window. Sunday’s results have Mexico with a three-point lead at the top of the table. Three points also separate 2nd through 5th-place. 3rd-place Panama plays 4th-place Canada in a game with obvious repercussions for the USA tied with Panama on points and ahead on goal difference in 2nd
Canada is undefeated in the Octagonal but has only one win. That shouldn’t downplay what they’ve accomplished, drawing at the United States in September and at Mexico to open their October schedule. Playing Panama at home, the expectation is that Canada picks up at least a point. Panama followed up a surprise loss at El Salvador by beating the USA at home on Sunday. It was a game that became more about what the USMNT didn’t do, but Panama is showing they understand how to get results in the final round.
Panama has now drawn at home against Costa Rica and Mexico, taking five points from the region’s three strongest teams on paper. Canada may already have a strong argument that they belong in that group of contenders, but Panama is also showing they can play disruptive soccer. It’s complicating what we thought we knew about the group, turning games into issues home and away.
That includes what we may or many not know about Canada and Panama. While Panama was picking up three points at the expense of the USMNT, Canada was drawing 0-0 at Jamaica. Playing in an empty stadium with Jamaica not at full strength, Canada should’ve expected more. That’s what Panama got in a similar situation last month, winning 3-0 at Jamaica. Given the changing scenarios across the region, not just window-to-window but also game-to-game, it’s tough to draw meaningful parallels.
“I thought we had some good moments which, with a bit more quality, we could have taken three points tonight,” Canada coach John Herdman said after drawing with Jamaica. “We just couldn’t find that half a yard you need to get a shot off. They put a shift in and we came out with a point and we’ll take it. “We’ve gone to the USA, we’ve gone to Jamaica, we’ve gone to Mexico, we’ve played in heat, we’ve played in altitude, on bumpy pitches, we’ve played in front of raucous crowds, we’ve played with suspensions, with injuries but finally we get a chance to play at home. We’re finally in a position where we’re not scouted at every training session and we can get a rhythm going.”
If Herdman is right, that could be another shakeup for the region. All the teams involved likely started the Octagonal with winning at home and getting anything on the road in mind. We’re already seeing those expectations changing courtesy of Canada and Panama, and with it the pressure across Concacaf.
SI’s Brian Straus with the USMNT looking to put Panama behind them. The Athletic’s Sam Stjeskal asks about the USMNT’s rotation strategy. MLSsoccer’s Matthew Doyle works through what we saw from the USMNT in Panama City. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald profiles Union player Paxten Aaronson. The NY Times’ Tariq Panja reports on the situation with China’s domestic league.
WEDNESDAY’S SOCCER TV
Concacaf World Cup qualifying on ESPN2: USA vs Costa Rica at 7pm. CBS Sports Network has El Salvador vs Mexico at 10pm. Canada vs Panama at 7:30pm and Honduras vs Jamaica at 8pm are streaming on Paramount+. All Times Eastern
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Graphic courtesy of Concacaf