KANSAS CITY: Michael Bradley scored a second half equalizer as holders the United States came from behind to grab a 1-1 draw with Panama to maintain their unbeaten start to the Gold Cup here Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
US captain Bradley struck early in the second half to cancel out Blas Perez’s opener for Panama as the Americans wrapped up their first phase campaign with a draw to finish top of Group A.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side will now face one of the two best third-placed teams in Saturday’s quarterfinals in Baltimore.
Panama, who had created the better chances throughout an even first half, took a deserved lead on 34 minutes through FC Dallas striker Perez.
Peru-based winger Luis Tejada was the architect, easily rounding Chris Wondolowski down the right flank before whipping in a low cross for Perez to steer home from close range.
Earlier, only a fine double save from Brad Guzan prevented Pana¬ma going ahead on 22 minutes, the Aston Villa goalkeeper blocking a goal-bound Wondolowski deflection before diving to stop a rebound from Valentin Pimentel.
The Panamanians also got the ball in the net after only 10 minutes, when Tejada steered in a free-kick from wide on the right only to be adjudged fractionally offside as the US defense breathed a sigh of relief.
The USA threatened Panama’s goal on only a handful of occasions in the first half, with a run by Alejandro Bedoya in the 15th minute culminating in a save by Jaime Penedo Cano the most promising foray.
The Americans had claims for a penalty and a red card waved away three minutes before half-time after Bedoya was bundled over on the edge of the area by Panama defender Harold Cummings.
The United States looked a different proposition after half-time however, with the introduction of Clint Dempsey from the substitute’s bench instantly providing the US with a sharper cutting edge.
The American equalizer came in the 55th minute when clever US interplay culminated with Bedoya picking out Bradley with a low cross in the penalty area.
The Toronto midfielder made no mistake from close range, jabbing home his finish to level the score and preserve the USA’s unbeaten start to the tournament.
Panama, desperate for a win to guarantee second place in the group, continued to probe for openings and might have taken the lead on 75 minutes only for Guzan to produce a superb reflex save to deny Miguel Camargo.
In the earlier Group A game, Haiti shocked 2014 World Cup qualifiers Honduras 1-0 to seal second place in the group and book their place in the last eight.
Duckens Nazon scored the game’s only goal after 13 minutes.