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USA vs. Panama, 2019 Gold Cup: What to watch for

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The USMNT have a chance to win the group against Panama.

Trinidad & Tobago v United States - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team look to wrap up the top spot in Group D in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Wednesday night in Kansas City against Panama. The Americans have looked good at times in big victories against Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, with several players having great performances so far. It’s their first set of competitive matches since they crashed out of World Cup qualifying back in October 2017. However, this is the USMNT’s first real test, and Los Canaleros want to gain confidence by emerging from the match as group winners.

Recent Form

USA

W (6-0) - Trinidad and Tobago - Gold Cup Group D

W (4-0) - Guyana - Gold Cup Group D

L (0-3) - Venezuela - Friendly

L (0-1) - Jamaica - Friendly

D (1-1) - Chile - Friendly

Panama

W (4-2) - Guyana - Gold Cup Group D

W (2-0) - Trinidad and Tobago - Gold Cup Group D

L (0-3) - Uruguay - Friendly

L (0-3) - Colombia - Friendly

D (1-1) - Brazil - Friendly

What To Watch For

The USMNT need to be relentless. Panama is a team that can hold possession quite well, and that’s going to be a test for the USMNT. They need to be relentless in holding onto the ball and making smart choices as they press forward into the attacking third. Panama will be in quick pursuit, and their midfielders will try to use possession to push forward quickly. The USMNT needs to maintain the pressure to keep Panama on their heels, and be the aggressors.

Finishing needs to be much better. The USMNT will likely not have as many opportunities to score as they did against Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. When they get a chance, they must be clinical with finishing. They don’t want to go forward just to have opportunities wasted. Whoever starts up top needs to lead the charge and finish the chances that are created. If the USMNT doesn’t do that well, it will be a long day for them.

Who wants the group? That’s the question of the day. The winner could play El Salvador or Curaçao, while the runner-up could play Jamaica. The USMNT wants to be able to say they were group winners if only to boost the confidence of fans. They want to show that they’re on their way back to being the CONCACAF power, and they want to emerge as another favorite to hoist the trophy. A loss to Panama, and the questions only mount over how far they’ve really come since 2017.

Lineup Prediction

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter has been evasive when asked if he’ll make any changes to his lineup that he sends out to face Panama. In the end, he’s hoping to keep the continuity going, so there may be a couple changes that we see.

Predicted Lineup vs. Panama

In goal, Berhalter will remain with Zack Steffen, who hasn’t had to do much work so far in the Gold Cup. On the back line, he remains with Nick Lima in the hybrid right back/center defense midfield position, and Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman continue to be the centerback pairing of choice. The only change on the line is Daniel Lovitz coming in to play left back.

In the middle, expect Gregg Berhalter to give Michael Bradley a rest in the middle, allowing Wil Trapp to get the start (and the captain’s armband). Bradley could see some minutes as a substitute late in the match should the USMNT need more possession. Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie should still be in the middle for the United States.

The front three have all scored multiple goals for the USMNT in the Gold Cup, so it’s likely that Berhalter lets them all continue to grow together as a unit. Tyler Boyd, Gyasi Zardes, and Paul Arriola will get the opportunity to finish more balls at the net, with Jozy Altidore and Jonathan Lewis coming on as potential late game subs.

Match Prediction

The USMNT will have their work cut out for them against Panama, and they’re going to be successful if they work hard and take the game to Los Canaleros. They give Panama some hope, but ultimately the USMNT win 2-1 and emerge as Group D winners.