Canadian soccer: Canada beat Panama, tied 2-2 to advance in Gold Cup qualifier

Canada handed Panama their first loss of the 2018 CONCACAF Gold Cup playoff after tying the defending champs 2-2 in a key qualifying match.

Joseland Jimenez put Panama ahead in the 18th minute, but captain Scott Arfield quickly equalized in the 39th. Arfield then took advantage of a fortunate bounce to stretch Canada’s lead in the 61st.

Canadian goalie Milan Borjan got a big hand on Panama’s second goal in the 70th, as the Panamanian’s header bounced over him and on to the Canadian goal.

Canada’s Group A rivals Mexico and Honduras advanced in this round of qualifying thanks to easy wins, but Panama now stands alone in front of the United States in Group B. Panama will play Costa Rica next Tuesday for a spot in next month’s Gold Cup semifinals.

Canada is now in first place in Group A, one point ahead of Panama and Honduras. The U.S. is fourth and tied for the final playoff berth with Trinidad and Tobago, also having played a match less.

The Gold Cup features North and Central American and Caribbean teams and crowns the region’s best player, in a tournament with a $2 million prize money.

A look at how teams fare in this round:

Panama: 1-0-0-0 (12 points)

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Panama beat Toronto FC on Sept. 3 and then held out on away goals against Mexico in a 1-1 draw on Oct. 2.

Champion: Panama was first among the so-called CONCACAF ‘Big 3’ group after finishing top of the standings with nine points during the group stage. The Big 3 (Panthers, Fury, Saprissa) features some of CONCACAF’s top rivals.

Honduras: 2-0-0-0 (11 points)

Honduras easily beat regional power Canada 2-0 on home soil on Oct. 8. It was a surprising result and the first time this region has not had at least one of its squads crowned a champion since 2007.

Champion: Honduras finished top of its group to move on.

Mexico: 2-0-0-0 (10 points)

Mexico needs to beat Honduras on Tuesday in Colorado in order to advance in its spotless group. A CONCACAF member since 1982, Mexico has won a record four Gold Cups.

Champion: Mexico is attempting to advance to its eighth straight Gold Cup championship. It has not won a tournament since 2012.

United States: 0-1-0-0 (6 points)

The U.S. began this round of qualifying with a 2-1 win over Costa Rica on Sept. 3 and a 1-0 victory against Jamaica on Oct. 1. This round is for advancement in one of two CONCACAF group stages.

Champion: The U.S. trails Panama and Honduras by a point, while Trinidad and Tobago trails Honduras by a point and has played a game less. All three are tied for first place in Group B with eight points.

*All rankings based on Sunday’s games.

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