USA vs. Panama preview: USMNT faces prospect of Curacao or Jamaica in quarterfinal

Despite getting the first half of this summer camp of to a dismal start with back to back shutout losses to Jamaica and Venezuela, the USMNT has bounced back well. They got their Gold Cup campaign under way with a 4-0 over Guyana and followed that up with a 6-0 thumping against Trinidad & Tobago. There’s obviously a variety of things that the US could be doing better on the field, but two wins out of two by a combined scoreline of 10-0 is nothing to sneeze at. From game one to game two the level of competition got a little bit more difficult. And that’s the case for game two to game three as the US moves on from T&T and gets set to face a familiar Gold Cup foe: Panama.

Prior to Saturday’s game against Trinidad & Tobago many of the US players tried to downplay the revenge factor. But after crushing them 6-0 Christian Pulisic wasn’t holding back, saying in part that he was definitely playing with a chip on his shoulder and he hoped everybody could see that. The first half was just as ugly against T&T as it had been the previous game against Guyana. The US didn’t have too many clear-cut chances and only led 1-0 going into the break on a fluky goal by Aaron Long. But the dam broke in the second half as the US unleashed a torrent. Gyasi Zardes got the next two (the first in typical Gyasi Zardes fashion about six inches away from the goal line, the second a fantastic shot from just inside the 18-yard box), Pulisic got one, Paul Arriola got one (his second in as many games) and Long got number six for his second of the night. After the dismal defeats in the two friendlies prior to the Gold Cup, morale was pretty low. But back to back shutout wins by a combined 10 goals seems to have been the perfect tonic. Now, should the US stumble prior to the final or get embarrassed by Mexico in the final, all the good vibes disappear again. But for now, the first two hurdles have been cleared with a small measure of aplomb. The next potential stumbling block is the only team to have ever beaten the US in a group stage game at the Gold Cup, doing so in 2011: Panama.

Panama is coming off the greatest accomplishment in their team history. They qualified for the World Cup in Russia last summer, making their first ever appearance in that competition. They were well overmatched, losing all three games (3-0 to Belgium, 6-1 to England, and 2-1 to Tunisia) but Felipe Baloy had the highlight of their short run with the only goal they scored (Tunisia conceded an own goal against them). Since then, their form has been atrocious. They posted an 0-4-1 (W-L-D) record to close 2018 and started 2019 much the same way, going 0-3-2. Once they hit the Gold Cup, however, they found their stride as they beat Trinidad & Tobago 2-0 and followed that up with an entertaining 4-2 win over Guyana. Their roster is about as young as it’s been in ages. Gone are the vets like Blas Perez, Jamie Penedo, Gabriel Gomez, and Luis Tejada. They still do have a few players with plenty of experience, with Roman Torres and Armado Cooper each having over 100 caps. But they also have five players with fewer than 10 caps. The roster is also much more diverse in terms of where the players are playing their club soccer. MLS players (and domestically based players) had for years comprised the bulk of Panamanian squads but on this roster only five of the 23 play in MLS: Harold Cummings of the San Jose Earthquakes, Roman Torres of the Seattle Sounders, Michael Murillo of the New York Red Bulls, Anibal Godoy of the San Jose Earthquakes, and Omar Browne of the Montreal Impact.

Notes:

1. Both the US and Panama have secured a spot in the quarter-finals. The winner of this game wins the group. If there is a draw, the US would win with the better goal difference.

2. This is the eighth straight Gold Cup where the US has played Panama, dating all the way back to 2005.

3. The Group D standings are as follows: USA (6 pts, +10 GD), Panama (6 pts, +4 GD), Guyana (0 pts, -6 GD), Trinidad & Tobago (0 pts, -8 GD)

When and where to find the game on US TV and streaming

Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Children’s Mercy Park
Kansas City, Kansas
9:00pm ET
Live on FS1, UniMas, Univision Deportes Network, Sling Blue, PlayStation Vue, Hulu Live and fuboTV (free trial)

All-Time Series

USA leads 13-1-6

Last Meeting

Sunday, January 27, 2019
State Farm Stadium
Glendale, Arizona
USA 3-0 Panama

Current FIFA Ranking

USA: 30
Panama: 75

Next Game

Sunday, June 30, 2019
Gold Cup
USA vs. TBD
Lincoln Financial Field
Philadelphia, PA

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