PANAMA CITY — On a dramatic final night in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying the United States scored two goals in stoppage time for a 3-2 win at Panama, keeping Mexico from being eliminated.
Luis Tejada’s 84th-minute goal put Panama ahead 2-1 and had the team in position to finish fourth in the group, which would have knocked Mexico out of the World Cup following El Tri’s 2-1 defeat at Costa Rica on Tuesday.
But Graham Zusi equalized for the Americans in the second minute of stoppage time before Aron Johansson scored the winning goal one minute later for the U.S., which finishes on top of the group with 22 points from 10 games.
Mexico ends up in fourth place after a dismal qualifying campaign and will face New Zealand in a two-legged playoff next month to determine which side will advance to the World Cup.
United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann chose to rest a number of key starters with his team having already locked up the top spot in the group, and the Americans were second best in the opening half as Gabriel Torres scored on a first-time shot to put the hosts in front.
The U.S. managed to create only a few chances but Michael Orozco made the most of one in the 64th minute when he redirected a corner kick from Brad Davis past goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
Tejada came off the bench in the 78th and scored the go-ahead goal six minutes later, looking like a hero in Panama.
If that score held up Mexico would be out, but Zusi became one of the most popular men in Mexico on Tuesday when he headed home a Davis cross in stoppage time to level the score, saving Mexico’s blushes.
Johansson scored from the edge of the penalty area with a well-placed shot one minute later just to pour more salt into the wound of stunned Panama side.
Costa Rica ends up in second place after beating Mexico as Alvaro Saborio scored the winning goal in the 64th minute, while Honduras will be headed to Brazil as well next summer after a 2-2 draw with Jamaica, which scored the equalizer in the 60th minute from Rodolph Austin’s penalty kick.