Panama vs. USA | CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Preview
Panama vs. USA
Tuesday, March 28, 10 pm ET
Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City, Panama
TV: beINSPORTS, Follow on the MLS App
Two Hexagonal contenders in urgent need of points lock horns in muggy Panama City on Tuesday night, a rematch that harks back to their Hex meeting in the last World Cup cycle, one of the most unforgettable occasions in recent CONCACAF history.
On Oct. 15, 2013, the final day of qualifying for Brazil 2014, a passionate crowd at Estadio Rommel Fernandez saw their team carry a 2-1 lead over the US national team into injury time, leaving them just moments away from a huge step towards their first-ever World Cup. But Aron Johannsson and Graham Zusi struck in the dying seconds to earn the USMNT a stunning 3-2 comeback victory that gave Mexico, not Panama, fourth place in the Hex and a spot in an intercontinental playoff vs. New Zealand, which El Tri won handily to punch their tickets to the big dance.
Four years later, Panama are again eyeing an underdog run to the World Cup. Only this time, a slow start for the US has at present rendered the Yanks neck and neck with Los Canaleros in the race for a successful Hex campaign.
Fifth Round (Hexagonal) Standings
|as of 9:00 PM ET, Mar. 28||PTS||W||L||D||GF||GA||GD|
|Trinidad & Tobago||3||1||2||0||2||6||-4|
Bruce Arena’s side whipped Honduras 6-0 at Avaya Stadium on Friday night to push a healthy gust of wind back in their sails after November’s dispiriting losses to Mexico and Costa Rica. First among the evening’s many bright spots: Clint Dempsey bagged a hat trick, Jozy Altidore flourished in the No. 9 spot and Christian Pulisic was lively in a central playmaking role.
The victory came at a cost, however. Starters Sebastian Lletget and John Brooks picked up knocks that have forced them to return to their clubs. Meanwhile, Jordan Morris and Michael Orozco were unable to shake off pre-existing injuries and have also departed, with Arena calling in Club Tijuana winger Paul Arriola for reinforcements in Panama.
Arena previously set four points as the goal from this month’s two matches, so taking a point home from Panama would constitute job done. But Friday’s outburst may leave some fans expecting another three instead.
After starting the Hex with a road win over Honduras and a hard-earned home draw with a powerful Mexico side, Los Canaleros suffered a potentially costly setback by losing 1-0 at previously winless Trinidad & Tobago on Friday night, undone by a first-half goal from Minnesota United star Kevin Molino. As the last qualifying cycle showed, every single point counts mightily.
Already missing a few useful players to injury and other factors, manager Hernan Dario Gomez looks likely to be without veteran striker and former MLS cult hero Blas Perez, who picked up a hamstring problem in the run-up to Friday’s game.
On Tuesday he’ll rely heavily on MLSers past and present just the same. Armando Cooper (Toronto), Anibal Godoy (San Jose), Adolfo Machado (Houston) and Roman Torres (Seattle) featured in the starting 11 in Trinidad, while recent New York Red Bulls acquisition Michael Murillo came off the bench. New York City FC's Miguel Camargo and former City striker Tony Taylor – a Panamanian-American who rose through the US youth national team system before switching allegiances as an adult – are also available.
The USMNT lead the all-time series vs. Panama handily with an 11-1-4 record, including a 5-0-1 advantage in World Cup qualifying and a 2-0-1 mark in qualifiers in Panama City.
The Canaleros have made enormous strides across their program in recent years, however, and their performances against the Yanks reflect it. They upset the US in the group stage of the 2011 Gold Cup, then knocked them off again in the third-place game at the 2015 Gold Cup (albeit via a penalty-kick shootout), capping a fairly grisly tournament for Jurgen Klinsmann and his team.
Player to Watch
USA – Jozy Altidore
Against Honduras, Toronto FC’s star was about as dominant as a striker can be without finding the net, working hard on both sides of the ball and providing his teammates with a pivotal reference point. He’ll be asked to do much the same in Panama, and under tougher circumstances. Dempsey’s age and fitness (will Deuce play the supersub role?) and the Yanks’ shorthanded forward corps make Altidore even more indispensible than usual.
Panama – Anibal Godoy
The Earthquakes’ most prominent “Panamaniac” has been excellent in the young MLS season and will have to be at or near his best if his national team are to pull off a priceless victory over the US. Capable of covering acres of ground from box to box, Godoy can also launch devastating strikes from range and will be a key combatant in Tuesday’s midfield battle.
Goalkeepers (3): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders (10): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielders (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Goalkeepers (2): Jose Calderon (Real Cartagena), Jaime Penedo (Dinamo Bucharest)
Defenders (9): Felipe Baloy (Tauro), Erick Davis (Dunajska Streda), Fidel Escobar (Sporting Lisbon B), Adolfo Machado (Houston Dynamo), Roderick Miller (Atletico Nacional), Amir Murillo (New York Red Bulls), Luis Ovalle (Zamora), Roman Torres (Seattle Sounders), Jan Carlos Vargas (Tauro FC)
Midfielders (9): Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes), Armando Cooper (Toronto FC), Miguel Camargo (NYCFC), Edgar Barcenas (Tapachula), Gabriel Gomez (Atletico Bucaramanga), Amilcar Henriquez (Arabe Unido), Josiel Nunez (Plaza Amador), Alberto Quintero (Universitario), Oscar Villarreal (Chorrillo FC)
Forwards (5): Abdiel Arroyo (Danubio), Blas Perez (Blooming), Tony Taylor (Pacos de Ferreira), Luis Tejada (Universitario), Gabriel Torres (Lausanne Sport)