USMNT vs. Panama
USMNT vs. Panama

Gold Cup Preview: USA – Panama

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The United States is aiming to reach a fifth straight Gold Cup final, however must first deal with what will be a difficult Panama team on Wednesday night in San Diego’s Snapdragon Stadium.

BJ Callaghan’s squad beat Canada in their quarterfinal matchup by the narrowest of margins, depending on an own-goal by opposing keeper Scott Kennedy deep in extra time, and the heroics of keeper Matt Turner to eventually win on penalties.

They are tasked with dealing with an experienced Panama team in Wednesday’s semifinal, who blew past tournament guests Qatar by four goals, thanks to a hat-trick by forward Ismael Díaz.

Similar to the Canadians and potential final opponents Jamaica, the Panamanians have made a habit of being a tough opponent for the Americans in recent years, even if the USMNT has maintained a slight edge in the overall trend.

Ignoring pointless friendlies, the teams have played eight games since 2015 in the Gold Cup or World Cup qualifying. This has yielded three wins for the Americans, two for Panama, and three draws.

Most recently, the USA avenged their 1-0 World Cup qualifying loss in Panama with a 5-1 thrashing of the team stateside five months later. Still, with the central Americans oozing with experience from top to bottom and riding the high of their win over Qatar, it would not be a major surprise to see either team come out on top on Wednesday.

In terms of veterans, the team is led by attacking midfielder Alberto Quintero and central mid Aníbal Godoy, who have 256 caps between them. Overall the team has 15 players on the current roster with more than 20 national team appearances, a group which comprised 10 of the 11 men in the starting lineup, the exception being keeper Orlando Mosquera.

They are coached by Danish-born, twice-capped Spanish international Thomas Christiansen, who has yet to lead the team to any truly notable and sustained successes since taking over in 2020, aside from the occasional surprising result against CONCACAF giants like the USMNT, Canada or Mexico.

Apart from Díaz, their main goalscoring threats this tournament have been Yoel Bárcenas and José Fajardo on the right side with two apiece, which will certainly test likely right-back DeJuan Jones, who luckily put in a superb performance in the quarterfinal against Canada.

For Wednesday’s game, Callaghan has the luxury of having no players suspended and none on his current roster carrying injuries, although Alan Soñora was replaced after the group stage by Jackson Yueill, and Aidan Morris left the team for personal reasons.

Still, he has the advantage of several attacking players who are firing on all cylinders, most notably Jesus Ferreira, who has scored a tournament-leading six goals so far, and hit the final, winning penalty against the Canadians.

His midfield three of Djordje Mihailovic on the left, Gianluca Busio on the right and James Sands did relatively well holding down the fort in the middle over the weekend, at least in the 92 minutes before Canada’s late equalizer, and could be in line for a repeat performance.

The front three could see some shuffling; while Ferreira should be a lock to start, none of the wing options stood out in the quarterfinal, which could lead to either or both of the starters Alejandro Zendejas or Julian Gressel being replaced by one of the MLS-based contingent of Cade Cowell or Jordan Morris.

Similarly, the center back pairing will be somewhat up in the air. On talent and potential, Miles Robinson and Jalen Neal would have the clear edge over the alternatives of Matt Miazaga and Aaron Long. However, with Robinson still only a few months removed from a serious injury, he could be rested for one of the two.

Outside backs Jones and Bryan Reynolds will be on tired legs following their long outings over the weekend. Jones was arguably the best player on the field for the US, so it would be a minor surprise if he was replaced on the left by John Tolkin, who has not played since the opening draw against Jamaica.

Reynolds was also solid against Canada and has been one of the better players for the US, so barring complete exhaustion, he should get the nod over veteran DeAndre Yedlin.

This leaves the heroic Turner in goal, an unquestionable choice after he stopped two Canadian penalties in the final shootout, and has more than lived up to his position as the #1 keeper for the US.

The game will kick off at 7:30pm Eastern Time in the Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, and will be the first time that the USMNT has played at this site since its 2022 opening.


David Smith

I'm YA's resident doctor, but not the kind of doctor you would want giving you an examination anywhere outside of a lecture hall. I've been YA's feet-on-the-ground in Germany since 2008, have an affinity for overly verbose descriptions of irrelevant minutiae, keep an eye on YAs in most of the destinations on mainland Europe, and watch a whole lot of Serie A.

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