U.S. men’s national team defender Michael Orozco told Univision that FC Dallas striker Blas Perez and other Panama players asked the U.S. team to slow down to make sure Panama secured the win that would have sent Los Canaleros through to a playoff with New Zealand and ended Mexico’s hopes of qualifying for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Of course, the U.S. went on to score twice deep into stoppage time to win the game, 3-2, dumping Panama out and keeping Mexico’s hopes alive.
“In the stadium all the people were shouting and Blas even said to me, ‘Drop back, no?’” Orozco told Univision on Wednesday. “But we had to play. This is soccer and the team that wins, wins. The truth is I couldn’t give him or Mexico a hand, we wanted to play our game.”
Orozco, who scored the U.S. opener in the 64th minute, added that Pérez wasn’t the only Panama player asking for the U.S. to concede defeat in a game that didn’t effectively matter, as the U.S. had already qualified. “At the end of the day it is a game of soccer, it is played for 90 minutes and you have to take advantage,” the Puebla defender said. “We didn’t think about helping Mexico, just playing our game so that we were satisfied.”