The United States men’s national team takes on Panama on July 26 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. Both teams have already clinched spots in the quarterfinals but will be playing to win.
The winner of this group (Group D) will likely avoid Jamaica and face either El Salvador or Curacao. Expect the Group D runner-up to take on the Reggae Boyz.
Panama is the best team the USMNT will face in the group stage but has looked far from convincing in its 2-0 victory over T&T and its 4-2 win against Guyana.
Los Canaleros have a 2-2-1 record in their last five matches and a 1-12-6 all-time record against the USMNT.
Goalkeepers (3): Luis Mejia (National Football Club; Uruguay), Jose Calderon (Deportivo Guastatoya; Guatemala), Orlando Mosquera (Tauro FC; Panama)
Defenders (8): Eric Davis (FC DAC 1904; Slovakia), Kevin Galvan (Sporting SM; Panama), Fidel Escobar (Sporting SM; Panama), Adolfo Machado (The Strongest; Bolivia), Harold Cummings (San Jose Earthquakes; United States), Romsn Torres (Seattle Sounders FC; United States), Michael Amir Murillo (Red Bulls NY; United States), Francisco Palacios (San Francisco FC; Panama)
Midfielders (7): Alberto Quintero (University Club of Sports; Peru), Edgar Yoel Barcenas (Real Oviedo; Spain), Marcos Sanchez (Tauro FC; Panama), Armando Cooper (Maccabi Petah-Tikvah FC; Israel), Ernesto Walker (LA Galaxy II; United States), Jose Luis Rodriguez (Deportivo Alaves B; Spain), Omar Browne (Montreal Impact; Canada)
Forwards (5): Jose Fajardo (Al-Kawkab; Saudi Arabia), Rolando Blackburn (The Strongest; Bolivia), Gabriel Torres (Club University of Chile; Chile), Abdiel Arroyo (Deportivo Arabe Unido; Panama), Valentin Pimentel (CD Plaza Amador; Panama)
Interim coach Julio Dely Valde will likely stick with the 4-4-2 he used against Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana. He has used the same Starting XI, with the exception of the two strikers, against both T&T and Guyana. Panama is not a team that dominates possession, but I expect it to push forward and attack the U.S.
Luis Mejia is the starting keeper and is solid average. He will make the saves expected of him, but won’t do much more.
Roman Torres and Harold Cummings will likely feature as the centerbacks. Torres tackles hard, dominates aerial duels, and is quite physically strong. However, he is very slow.
Harold Cummings is also exceptionally strong and an excellent tackler. His primary flaws are that he receives too many cards and is often caught out of position (too high up the field).
Eric Davis should start at left back. Davis is a good crosser who will look to join the attack and excels at intercepting passes. However, his 1 v. 1 defending is rather poor.
Look for Michael Murillo to feature at right back. Murillo is good on the ball, possesses above-average pace, and has an excellent sense of positional awareness. His main weaknesses are his crossing and man-to-man marking.
Fidel Escobar and Armando Cooper will likely feature as central midfielders. Escobar is a natural centerback but has been used as a central midfielder against T&T and Guyana. Look for him to drop deep and play as a defensive midfielder. He is good in the air and intercepts many passes each game, but his passing range is rather limited, and he offers nothing in attack.
Cooper is a crafty dribbler with a high work rate, but he rarely wins balls in midfield and does not create as many chances as he should.
Expect Edgar Barcenas to start at right midfield. Barcenas is one of Panama’s best attackers. He is a dangerous goal scorer who likes to cut in from the wing and accelerates quickly. His main flaw is that he does not record as many assists as he should.
Alberto Quintero seems most likely to start at left midfield. Quintero is a talented playmaker who excels at crossing and puts in an impressive defensive effort. However, his finishing is poor.
Coach Julio Dely Valde has heavily rotated his strikers throughout the first two Gold Cup matches, so it’s difficult to predict whom he will select.
I suspect hat Gabriel Torres and Abdiel Arroyo will be the starting strikers. Torres is a crafty veteran who can score in just about any way imaginable but strays offside too frequently. He has been in poor form, scoring just once in 14 club appearances this season (in the Chilean Primera Division). However, he did record one goal against Guyana.
Arroyo is a classic poacher with impressive shooting accuracy. However, his dribbling is subpar, and he struggles to create chances for himself.
Panama is far better than Guyana and Trinidad, but I believe the USMNT will overpower its Central American foe. I’m predicting a 3-1 USMNT victory.