It was a good June for the USMNT and July has certainly started the same way as the US beat Ghana 2-1 in a tune-up for the upcoming Gold Cup. When the US roster was released, it was Dom Dwyer who grabbed all the headlines and it was Dom Dwyer who grabbed all of the headlines from the Ghana game with a goal in his first appearance for the US (a rather splendid goal it should be said). Now the games and results matter as the US gets set to open up the Gold Cup against a familiar opponent: Panama.
While it was Dom Dwyer who stole the show against Ghana a number of other players put in noteworthy performances. Kellyn Acosta scored a great free kick for his first international goal. Brad Guzan saved a penalty right before halftime. Dax McCarty was also good in his first US appearance in quite some time. Even those who didn’t have standout games weren’t terrible. It should be noted that most of the players on this roster are not “A” team guys so for so many of them to put in solid performances is very good. Obviously the immediate objective is to win the Gold Cup with this group but beyond that a number of the players on this roster are battling to make a name for themselves and possibly end up getting called in for the remaining World Cup Qualifiers and possibly even snag a spot on the plane to Russia for the World Cup next year.
As mentioned above the immediate objective for Bruce Arena and this US team is to win the Gold Cup. Strangely enough the US has only won the Gold Cup once in the last four tries (2013), bottoming out in the last edition in 2015 with a 4th place finish (losing the 3rd place game to Panama on penalties). What stings even more is that every time the US has not won, arch-rival Mexico has (beating the US in the final in both 2009 and 2011). What the US has going for it right now is that Bruce Arena has gotten the team back on track and there is a ton of positive momentum on their side right now. Not only is there momentum but there is a belief and a little bit of swagger there as well. And with the toughest game of the group stage against Panama being played first, it’s hard not to see the US doing well at this edition of the Gold Cup.
Panama has had a mixed bag of results so far in 2017. They won the Copa Centroamericana as hosts back in January but haven’t won a game since (though they’ve played four and lost only one). They currently sit 4th in the Hexagonal in their attempt to qualify for their first ever World Cup. But none of that has any bearing on the Gold Cup, a tournament in which Panama traditionally performs very well. In fact, Panama has made it to the knockout rounds of the last six Gold Cups and has made it to the semi-finals of the last three Gold Cups. It should also be noted that Panama is the only team to ever beat the US in the group stage at the Gold Cup (doing so in 2011). Looking at the group it’s a safe bet that they make it to the knockout rounds again (after the US and Panama the group consists of Martinique and Nicaragua). However, their roster for this tournament could be called a “B” squad as two of their best players (Blas Perez and Jamie Penedo) are being rested for the stretch run of World Cup Qualifying. But there are still several players the US will need to keep an eye on: Gabriel Torres who has 10 goals in 60 appearances and Gabriel Gomez who at the age of 33 has 12 goals and 132 caps to his name.
• Since 2011, the US has played Panama ten times which is tied with Mexico for most against any opponent.
• Kenny Saeif has been replaced on the US roster by Chris Pontius due to a groin injury.
• After the completion of the group stage, each team can make up to six changes to its roster but all replacement players must come from the preliminary 40 man roster.
When and where to watch the game on TV and streaming
USA leads 11-1-5
Estadio Rommel Fernandez
Panama City, Panama
USA – 1
Panama – 1
Current FIFA Ranking
Gold Cup Group Stage
USA vs. Martinique
Raymond James Stadium
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