As was the case in the opener against Honduras, it wasn’t pretty for the US against Haiti but they got the result that matters. With a 1-0 win over Haiti in front of over 46,000 in Foxborough, the US clinched top spot in Group A and booked a place in the quarter-finals in Baltimore against an opponent to be determined. But before the knockout rounds begin, there is the final group game against Panama.
Prior to the tournament, Jurgen Klinsmann said that the USMNT’s performance at the Gold Cup might be similar to that of the USWNT at the Women’s World Cup. It’s certainly looked like it through the first two games with the US getting the results, but failing to impress while doing so. Clint Dempsey scored again for the US (whatever Klinsmann said to him when he gave the captaincy to Michael Bradley has worked wonders) but he was one of only two or three players who did well on the night (see player ratings). Jozy Altidore played poorly for the third game running and was yanked at halftime for Gyasi Zardes, who came in and had an immediate impact by setting up Dempsey’s goal two minutes into the second half. Michael Bradley had another pedestrian performance and the backline of Evans, Gonzalez, Ream and Garza looked out of their depth. Aron Johannsson did impress despite failing to get on the scoresheet (his goal was wrongly ruled offside). It is well within the realm of possibility to expect lots more changes from Klinsmann for the Panama game.
Panama once again come into a game that is meaningless to the US, but one in which Panama desperately needs a result (like the World Cup qualifier in October 2013). They are currently in second place in Group A but would much prefer a good result so they don’t have to worry about how other games play out. Panama was very close to getting a win against Honduras on Friday but conceded a late penalty (which Jamie Penedo saved, but the rebound was put in by Andy Najar). That ending could prove to be disastrous because not only did they let two points slip away, but Luis Hernandez picked up two yellow cards after the 85th minute and will miss the US game.
Panama have had a rough go of it since barely missing out on fourth place in World Cup qualifying. They fired the Valdes twins (which many saw as a huge mistake). Panama has only won twice in 2015 and are currently winless in four straight (including a 4-0 beatdown in Ecuador). The players to watch for Panama are 36 year old FC Dallas striker Blas Perez, who hasn’t scored since September, and 33 year old strike Luis Tejada.
• Clint Dempsey has scored in his last four appearances for the US dating back to the last time the US played Panama (he did not play for the US in March, April or June).
• Jozy Altidore has two goals in two appearances at Sporting Park for the US (he wasn’t called in for the WCQ in 2012 against Guatemala).
• Panama has made it to the knockout rounds in five straight Gold Cups (and in a weird twist of fate, have been knocked out by the US all five times).
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USA leads 11-1-2
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2 USA Panama 0
Next Game Up
USA vs. TBD (3rd Place team from either Group B or Group C)
M&T Bank Stadium
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