Mexico-Panama Takeaways: Gold Cup image takes big hit

For an organization suffering from an image problem in the aftermath of bribery scandals involving its past two administrations, things could hardly get any worse for Concacaf. But Wednesday's Mexico-Panama match in the Gold Cup semifinals was a new low on the field. El Tri won, 2-1, in a chaotic match that was marred by repeated crowd trouble and turned in its favor on a controversial penalty kick awarded by American Mark Geiger in the 89th minute.

1. Mexico gets all the breaks.

For the second game in a row, Mexico advanced thanks to a controversial penalty decision issued by an American. El Tri beat Costa Rica, 1-0, in the quarterfinals when Andres Guardado scored from the penalty spot in the 122nd minute. The penalty was awarded after Oribe Peralta dived in the area but was ruled to have been fouled by Roy Miller by assistant referee Eric Boria.

On Wednesday, short-handed Panama was minutes away from beating Mexico when El Tri was again awarded a penalty kick. After attempting to clear a ball, Panamanian defender Roman Torres -- the Canaleros' goal scorer -- appeared to be tripped and fell to ground, where he landed on the ball.

Geiger pointed to the spot, but it took almost 10 minutes for order to be restored as the Panamanians protested the decision, tussled with their opponents and scattered their dugout after being pelted with objects from fans behind them in the stands at Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Guardado scored to send the game into overtime, where he won the game with yet another penalty kick, this one without controversy.

2. Canaleros feel aggrieved by Geiger's decision.

After Costa Rica lost to Mexico on Sunday, Ticos coach Paulo Wanchope would not blame Guatemalan referee Walter Lopez and Boria for his team's exit. Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez was not so kind. The Colombian said the call on the first penalty was the worst he'd seen in 28 years of coaching and made him think of retiring. "If it was up to me," he said, "I could say, 'I do not want to continue in soccer anymore.' Because that was horrible. It was an utter robbery."

Luis Tejada, who was sent off in the 25th minute for a high elbow in a challenge with Mexican defender Maza Rodriguez, said the fair thing would have been for Guardado to have missed his penalty kick and given the game to Panama.

There was little doubt that Mexico was the better team against Costa Rica, but even with a man advantage most of the game it struggled against Panama, which took the lead when Torres scored on a header in the 57th minute. Two years earlier, Torres' goal had given Panama a 2-1 win over Mexico in the Gold Cup semifinals. This time, the Canaleros could not hold on.

3. Gold Cup's image takes a big hit.

The Gold Cup was marred by organizational issues early in the 1990s, but it has never had a game quite like Mexico-Panama. There have been incidents of crowd trouble before but nothing quite like Wednesday's game, which drew a crowd of 70,511 at the Georgia Dome. After the game ended, the Panamanians stormed Geiger and his refereeing crew, but thankfully cooler heads prevailed -- thanks in part to Torres' intervention -- and there was no serious trouble on the field.

As an organization, Concacaf will have to take a hard look at how it runs the tournament. One cannot see how a sponsor could have watched images of what happened on Wednesday night and want to have anything to do with the event.

Wednesday's incidents will force heightened security for Sunday's Mexico-Jamaica final in Philadelphia. If there is a repeat of the trouble in Atlanta, Concacaf may have to rethink plans for the Oct. 9 playoff between the 2013 and 2015 Gold Cup winners to decide the Concacaf representative in the 2017 Confederations Cup. If it's USA-Mexico, the likely venue is the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

With a gate of more than 90,000 fans, Concacaf could use a big payday. Unfortunately, it doesn't need another black eye.

July 22 in Atlanta
Mexico 2 Panama 1. Goals: Guardado 90+10, 105; R.Torres 57.
Mexico -- Ochoa, Aguilar, Reyes, Rodriguez, Alanis (Esquivel, 46), Layun (Orozco, 77), H.Herrera (J.Corona, 59), J. Dos Santos, Guardado, Peralta, Vela.
Panama -- Penedo, Machado, R. Torres, Cummings, Davis, Pimentel (Henrique, 87; Stephens, 109), Cooper, Godoy, Quintero, Tejada, Nurse (Molinar, 79).
Yellow Cards: Mexico -- Vela 4, H.Herrera 55, Aguilar 90+13, Orozco 95; Panama -- Godoy 28, Nurse 79, Pimentel 82, Machado 89, Cooper 90+11, R.Torres 104, Cummings 108.
Red Card: Panama -- Tejada 25.
Referee: Mark Geiger (USA).
Att.: 70,511.
23 comments about "Mexico-Panama Takeaways: Gold Cup image takes big hit".
  1. Santiago 1314, July 23, 2015 at 7:09 a.m.

    "El Chapo" strikes again..."Mexican Exceptionalism"...

  2. Santiago 1314, July 23, 2015 at 7:12 a.m.

    RINSE, LATHER, REPEAT...I Told You so....It must be Clear now, what my Secret Phone Number stands for… 1-276-387-4329 ... One-BRN-EVR-iDAY… YOU Suckers!!!... Did you think that there would not be a Play-Off Game.!?!?!?... This is CONCAcaCrApF… There was always going to be a Play-Off Game…!!!...ROSE BOWL 50/50 Split Seating…Riot Police, Tear Gas, Welcome to World Football….. “0”…”0”…”0”… For JK… and the Team…

  3. ROBERT BOND, July 23, 2015 at 9:48 a.m.

    do you think that's why he busted out-to lean on the refs? like a lot of gringos, so disgusted by our lame loss i hit marta asap after US's triple kid put it best, "we're losing to a freaking little island!"

  4. Bob Escobar, July 23, 2015 at 10:03 a.m.

    el Chapo escaped right in the nick of time to pay the American ref enough money for the Panamanian red card and the penalty call, CONCACAF proved once again how corrupted it is.

  5. Charles Stamos, July 23, 2015 at 10:44 a.m.

    A lose - lose - lose situation for American refs, Mexican opponents and soccer...Geiger overreacted on the red card foul, he then was in a lose - lose situation for controlling the game and getting a just outcome...Mexico gets to the final in a questionable manner, they could have made it without the ref's help...horrible sportmanship by the losing sides...there may be CONCACAF or FIFA consequences...a black mark all around.

  6. Daniel Clifton, July 23, 2015 at 11:24 a.m.

    I am beginning to think maybe Santiago is right about the playoff always being in the works. The red card call by Geiger was clearly an over reaction or maybe as Santiago is suggesting, Panama was Concacafed. Jamaica better watch out in the championship game. Concacaf wants a Mexico-USA playoff game for the Conferations Cup, not a Jamaica-US playoff game.

  7. Carl Walther, July 23, 2015 at 12:03 p.m.

    Every time Panama sends a team, they pick a bunch of thugs from of the ghettos of Panama. They are more concerned with cheating, fighting, and complaining than they are with playing soccer. This happens year after year. Perhaps the country should be banned from competition.

  8. Tim Brown, July 23, 2015 at 12:23 p.m.

    Panama tied USA and should have beaten Mexico if not for a terrible call. Mexico and USA better wake up. These other teams are getting better. Mexico was gifted twice in the last two games.Fans of el tri consider this early Christmas gift as along with the USA don't deserve to be in the final.

  9. Juan R, July 23, 2015 at 12:42 p.m.

    I have never experienced anything like that. At least they never replayed the controversial decisions on the Georgia Dome screens. Who knows how fans would have reacted. So many people throwing things, not just on the field but all around us. Fights breaking out. Police nowhere to be seen. There were a lot of pretend security people, but they have little power. I saw one guy getting pummeled with their pretend security looking on. Georgia Dome Security was ill prepared.

    They should play the Confederation Cup qualifiers in both countries. Home and Home Series. Not in the Rose Bowl. Who is running the show now?

  10. Juan R, July 23, 2015 at 12:43 p.m.

    By the way, Geiger should never referee international soccer again. For everyone's sake.

  11. Mike Jacome, July 23, 2015 at 12:57 p.m.

    Concacaf want a Mexico-USA playoff? What? really? And exactly how many million dollars would that said playoff would bring to Concacaf? I'm talking about ticket sales and advertisement money, plus broadcast rights from Mexican networks...? Any estimates? It all makes sense now! Concacaf would have never allowed Costa Rica to have a shot to eliminate Mexico on PKs or Panama to do the same (88th min ghost PK)Jamaica will never be allowed a chance to blow this away. USA-Jamaica playoff is far less revenue for Concacaf.
    Geiger is a good ref that is what his horrifying performance from last night is more than suspicious.
    This is the reason why Blatter and FIFA so furiously opposed to technology and video revisions to be implemented, they don't care about justice they want to have control to gte their dirty hands in the sport. When we allow video reviews like Baseball or American football, corruption will never have a chance to handle results in favor of making an extra buck like Concacaf is doing with this playoff situation.

  12. Massimiliano Ciniglio, July 23, 2015 at 1:16 p.m.

    Carl Walther, you have the most remote idea of what you're saying about Panama. If you didnt saw what happened last night you shouldnt even post a comment here. Extremely obvious the disaster that the referee was and the poor fair play the mexicans showed. Robbing a game like this should be punished with jail time, and people that dont know deadly squad of soccer should not be writing comments here. Blaming Panama for what happned last night is like blaming Jesus for been crucified. Mr. Walther I suggest you never place a foot in Panama, not even for a flight connection.

  13. Doug Wiggins, July 23, 2015 at 2:19 p.m.

    So much for "The Beautiful Game"!

  14. beautiful game, July 23, 2015 at 4:29 p.m.

    Geiger deserves a red card for some dubious howlers. It seems that Geiger and the majority of FIFA referees need retraining in the laws of the game. The officiating has become a sham over the years, especially when the rugby scrum in the penalty area blinds the referees common sense, or fouls off the ball go unpunished.

  15. Santiago 1314, July 23, 2015 at 4:35 p.m.

    @Mike J,... 100, 000 tickets x $50(??) = 5,000, 000.oo Dollars, according to "Dr. Evil"... plus TV and Marketing... Great Point about why they don't want Replay, Even my Beady Conspiratorial Mind hadn't thought that Low...

  16. Margaret Manning, July 23, 2015 at 8:50 p.m.

    Gee, major tournament ruined by poor officiating . . . game out of control . . . WHAT does this remind me of? Ah, yes, The Dempsey Notebook Affair.

    And 90,000 in the Rose Bowl with Mexico? No thanks. There's not enough security in all of southern California. What a huge embarrassment for the league.

    P.S. Whatever happened to FIFA telling Mexico to lose the PUTA or else? That was the least of the offenses last night, but really. . . .

  17. Normand Conquest, July 23, 2015 at 10:15 p.m.

    Could Panama show their displeasure with CONCACAF by joining CONMEBOL? They would get home games with the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Columbia, and Uruguay. That sounds like a winning strategy. Australia joined the Asian federation.

  18. Soccer Madness, July 23, 2015 at 10:31 p.m.

    Let's not forget the not so much as mentioned bribery claim from Belize players right before playing USA in same Gold Cup a few years ago. Itvis corrupt and USA is not exempt. Ref was told to help Mexico through. There is no doubt of that. That red card was no mistake. He yellow carded Vela for automatic red just before. Had he not seen Vela then one can say it could have been mistake. Button seeing the offense there should only have been one option. Straight red. With Panama p layer he should have yellow carded knowing he let Vela slide. For the ref to have made that many inconsistent mistakes he would have to have been completely mentally retarded

  19. Bob Ashpole, July 23, 2015 at 11 p.m.

    Mr. Kennedy, I am very disappointed in your inaccurate reporting ("appeared to be tripped and fell to ground, where he landed on the ball") which serves no good purpose. You should print a formal retraction and offer a correct description of the events. A slanted report is one thing; but an inacurrate report is something else altogether. You twisted that description past its breaking point.

  20. c abraham, July 24, 2015 at 12:31 a.m.

    i'm relatively new to soccer, at least as a big time fan. wow. i thought cup of the americas was a crazy spectacle (AND GREAT). they effectively played under MMA rules, Chilean MMA rules. Chile got every questionable call. but in retrospect, it was peace commune in comparison to gold cup. what a mess. forget the the 2nd phantom penalty very late in 2 games. how about the phantom red card? since when is reaching back for a player and touching his face (and i'm not even sure he touched him) a red card? fifa could care less about whether it gains more popularity in the US. it already governs the most popular game in the world by a long shot. nevertheless, fifa will get more american fans and with that will come greater scrutiny and demands for fairness. americans won't' accept this. we are already seeing the impact of the game's growing popularity in America.

  21. Bob Ashpole, July 24, 2015 at 3:29 p.m.

    Chris, you cannot learn the Laws of the Game by watching. Except for referees, most people have never read the Laws of the Game. In my experience about half of adult players (those with 20+ years of playing experience) do not know the off-sides rule. That is why you have people upset that a "hand" did not touch the ball, that a dangerous play was not deliberate or did not result in actual dangerous contact, that the player "got the ball first," or that pushing and holding is an acceptable part of the game.

  22. Al Gebra, July 24, 2015 at 7:04 p.m.

    Corruption in American football or baseball? No way. Unless you consider under-inflated football balls (what Niles Crane calls them) or overdosing on steroids.

  23. Jeffrey Organ, July 27, 2015 at 6:50 p.m.

    There is no way that security will ever be tightened up at CONCACAF matches. If the security staff went into the crowd to remove people throwing things on the field there would be a riot in the stands.

    I am curious how these security issues will play out if there is a Copa America Centenario in the United States in 2016. The silence about this tournament was deafening at the Gold Cup. Is it dead? If so, why has there not been a public announcement?

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