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Panama vs. USA | Gold Cup Match Preview

USA vs. Panama
2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup
July 13 | 9:30 pm ET | Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan.
TV: Fox Sports 1, UniMas, UDN, Sportsnet World, Sportsnet 360

The US national team continue their Gold Cup title defense with a dead-rubber match against Panama in Kansas City that matters a great deal to Los Canaleros, but is effectively a warm-up for the knockout rounds for the USMNT.

Not that it matters much to the KC faithful – Sporting Park will be packed with a sellout crowd, as usual.

Victories over Honduras and Haiti locked up the top spot in Group A with a match to spare, providing Jurgen Klinsmann with a chance to continue his lineup experiments against Panama. Regardless of Tuesday's result, focus will quickly shift to Saturday's quarterfinal in Baltimore, which will feature the USMNT vs. the third-place finisher in either Group B or Group C.

PRESSURE'S ON PANAMA: After blowing 1-0 leads in both of their previous matches, Los Canaleros need a positive result against the Yanks to be sure of advancement. A win would assure them of second place in the group, while a loss or draw would take their destiny out of their own hands. That's a tall order against a US team holding a 12-1-2 all-time record against them – and the USMNT are 5-0-2 all-time in the third group-stage match of the Gold Cup. Panama did upset the USMNT in the group stage of the 2011 tournament, though.

JUDGING JOZY: Jozy Altidore only lasted 45 minutes before being substituted in Friday's win over Haiti, as he works his way back from a hamstring problem. Over the weekend Klinsmann told media that his star striker needs to play his way into form:

“He's the type of player that can always make a difference, that has to work himself into a rhythm. He obviously knows his body the best. … We have to hope that giving him minutes gives him the chance to come through and pick up a higher tempo, a higher pace.”

HISTORY OF HEARTBREAK: The USMNT beat Panama 1-0 in the 2013 Gold Cup final, ending the Central Americans' underdog run in that tournament. But the next meeting would hurt Los Canaleros even more.

In October of that year, Panama were leading the US at home in the late stages of a World Cup qualifier and thus on course to beat Mexico to fourth place in the Hexagonal, which would've placed them in an intercontinental playoff vs. New Zealand for the final spot at the 2014 World Cup. But late, late goals from Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson saved Mexico and crushed Panamanian hopes.

I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL... BUNKER? Klinsmann's side has shown flashes of the “proactive” style he's long described, but over the past two years the US have been more pragmatic than poetic, as MLSsoccer's Armchair Analyst notes:

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