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USA vs. Panama, 2018 World Cup Qualifiers: Scouting Panama

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A key battle between the third and fourth placed teams in the Hex

Panama v United States - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Panama will look to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Trinidad and Tobago, when it takes on the United States Men’s National Team in Panama City on Tuesday night. Los Canaleros currently sit in third place in the Hex, one point ahead of the fourth placed U.S. Despite it’s home-field advantage, Panama will face a tough task as it holds a 1-11-4 all-time record against the U.S.

Panama Roster:

Goalkeepers (2): Jose Calderon (Real Cartagena), Jaime Penedo (Dinamo Bucharest)

Defenders (9): Felipe Baloy (Tauro), Erick Davis (Dunajska Streda), 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), Tony Taylor (Pacos de Ferreira), Luis Tejada (Universitario), Gabriel Torres (Lausanne Sport)

Look for coach Hernan Dario Gomez to deploy either a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1. A 4-5-1 would allow the Los Canaleros to play three central midfielders and exploit the defensive weaknesses of a potential Michael Bradley-Christian Pulisic central midfield partnership. Alternatively, since Panama failed to score playing a 4-5-1 against Trinidad and Tobago, a shift to a 4-4-2 may be necessary.

Expect Panama to use the same backline it used against Trinidad and Tobago. The defense will be anchored by veteran centerbacks Roman Torres and Felipe Baloy. Torres is incredibly strong and tackles very hard. Despite his good defensive qualities, he struggles passing out of the back. Baloy’s playing style is very similar to Torres. He is very athletic, strong, and aggressive.

San Jose Earthquakes defensive midfielder Anibal Godoy will be tasked with trying to stop the U.S. center midfielders. Godoy is a prototypical defensive midfielder. He tackles hard, is very aggressive, and will link the Panamanian defense and midfield.

Armando Cooper is a solid, if unspectacular central midfielder. He has been rather mediocre for Toronto FC so far this season, but is capable of playing much better. His main strengths are his tackling and dribbling.

Midfielders Alberto Quintero and Edgar Barcenas will start on the flanks. Quintero is a complete midfielder. He is a strong attacker due to his refined passing and impressive dribbling. He also works hard defensively and is a surprisingly good tackler.

Barcenas is the weak link in the midfield. He is relatively inexperienced with just 15 caps and has been bouncing around between clubs the past few years. Barcenas isn’t a good finisher and should be easily contained by the U.S.

Against Trinidad and Tobago, Abdiel Arroyo featured as Panama’s lone forward. Arroyo struggled mightily and it seems unlikely that he would once again start up top alone. Look for veteran strikers Gabriel Torres and Luis Tejada to start this match.

Torres may be 34, but he has scored more international goals than anyone else on the team. He came on as a substitute against T&T and is a good finisher who is lethal inside the box. Tejada has a reputation for being easily provoked and receiving many unnecessary cards.

Torres is very quick and a good passer. He often looks to take shots from distance. He struggles in the air and likely won’t win many headers against the U.S. defense.

Panama will need to contain Christian Pulisic in order to win. If they play very physically against Pulisic they may be able to unsettle him.

Los Canaleros should also look to attack down the wings against the U.S. American left-back Jorge Villafana has little international experience and the U.S. may be forced to play an inexperienced right-back, if Geoff Cameron moves to centerback in place of John Anthony Brooks. Despite the U.S.’ defensive weakness, look for it to narrowly edge Panama.