The United States Men’s National Team reached the semifinal round of the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup following a thrilling shootout victory over Canada. The road to a second consecutive title continues with a match against Panama. The Central American nation should push for one of the region’s qualifying places at the upcoming World Cup and has been an occasional burr in the saddle to the hosts. Set to house the combatants is Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, California, a 35,000-seat multipurpose venue with “spongy” Bermuda grass that opened in September of 2022.
This is the 26th all-time meeting between the two nations, with the USMNT holding a 17-2-6 advantage and claiming the most recent result in March of 2022 during the World Cup qualifying Octagonal. Ranked 57th internationally by FIFA, Panama reached the Gold Cup by finishing atop League A Group B in the CONCACAF Nations League with an undefeated 3-0-1 record, ahead of Costa Rica and Martinique. In the current competition, Los Canaleros (The Canal Men) claimed first place in Group C with a 2-0-1 record – taking down Costa Rica (2-1) and Martinique (2-1) before drawing with El Salvador (2-2) – and soundly defeated Qatar in the quarterfinal round by a 4-0 margin.
Thomas Christiansen was appointed to the manager position in July of 2020. The Danish-born former Spain international has experience leading AEK Lamaca, APOEL, Leeds United, and Union Saint-Gilloise. In June of 2022, the Federación Panameña de Fútbol extended his contract through 2026.
¡LOS 2️⃣3️⃣ DE ORO !— FEPAFUT (@fepafut) June 19, 2023
La selección #PanamáMayor anuncia sus elegidos para la @GoldCup .
El equipo viaja hoy a Fort Lauderdale para su debut el próximo lunes 26 de junio Costa Rica .
Nota ➡️ https://t.co/WKg8NWciKi#TodosSomosPanamá pic.twitter.com/3fjiCRaPNw
Christiansen named an initial 23-player roster for the Gold Cup, a group missing familiar names such as Abdiel Ayarza, Miguel Camargo, and José Luis Rodríguez. Anderlecht right fullback Michael Murillo was declared “unfit” to compete and departed the squad due to multiple injuries. Following the group stage, he was replaced by New York Red Bulls defender Omar Valencia.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Luis Mejía (Unión Española), César Samudio (Marathón), Orlando Mosquera (Monagas)
DEFENDERS (8): César Blackman (DAC Dunajská Streda), Harold Cummings (Unattached), Fidel Escobar (Saprissa), Roderick Miller (Turan Tovuz), Eduardo Anderson (San Carlos), Eric Davis (Unattached), Andrés Andrade (LASK), Omar Valencia (New York Red Bulls II)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Cristian Martínez (Najran), Jovani Welch (Académico de Viseu), Adalberto Carrasquilla (Houston Dynamo FC), Yoel Bárcenas (Mazatlán), Freddy Góndola (Alajuelense), Alberto Quintero (Cienciano), Aníbal Godoy (Nashville SC), César Yanis (Potros del Este)
FORWARD (4): Azarías Londoño (Comunicaciones), Ismael Díaz (Universidad Católica), José Fajardo (Cusco), Cecilio Waterman (Cobresal)
At the Gold Cup, Christiansen has deployed a 5-2-3 formation, relying on the program’s depth at the centre-back position. In the past, Panama has experienced trouble breaking down the final third and converting chances into scoring, but those issues have lessened as of late. The wingers drive the attack, looking to find the striker early and often, but the entire squad is willing to attempt low-percentage shots from distance.
The three-player back line has merits, although spacing and marking can sometimes be an issue as the entire group must shift ball-side while maintaining coverage of the wider areas. Both Costa Rica and Martinique were able to draw out a central defender and charge into the open area before a helper could slide over to assist. The pacey USMNT attackers should be able to exploit this weakness and find their way in behind toward the goal.
No longer the back-up at the international level, Orlando Mosquera has seized the number-one job at the Gold Cup from previous starter Luis Mejía. The 28-yearold competes with Monagas Sport Club in the Venezuelan Primera División, delivering “meritorious” saves for both club and country. He is highly acrobatic and has the composure to pull out quick stops from point-blank opportunities. While capable, his habit is to surrender a lot of rebounds instead of catching the ball, although most of his deflections are steered away to safety.
After a several-year spell in Spain, Fidel Escobar returned to the Americas and has become a starter for regional giant Deportivo Saprissa. He is an aggressive tackler and uses his athleticism to outrace and wear down the opponent. At 31 years old, Harold Cummings is one of the squad’s veterans and a ball hawk on set pieces. The Panama City native provides a similar physical presence and looks to play long passes out of the back. Completing the centre-back trio is Andrés Andrade of LASK, who is capable of moving to the wings and shutting down pacier attackers. His aerial abilities are an asset, making him responsible for much of the guardianship and clean-up.
Andres Andrade stuns Jamaica!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 5, 2021
A clinical finish puts Panama in the lead pic.twitter.com/lw7y5GL557
At left back is Eric Davis, most recently with Slovakian side DAC Dunajská Streda, a dangerous attacker who looks to shoot from distance or sneak into the back post. He is a strong passer on the wing and plays the long ball to the attackers. Filling in for Murillo and sliding deeper in the formation is Yoel Bárcenas of Liga MX side Mazatlán, a pacey attacker who can operate at the top of the box. He is quite the pest with his endless dribbling and pressuring of the opponent, slowing down proceedings to a crawl.
In a 5-2-3 formation, the defensive midfielder is required to climb a steep mountain in every match, which lays heavy responsibility on the shoulders of Aníbal Godoy on both sides of the game. The 33-year-old with Nashville SC is up to the task, clogging the opponent’s lanes and maintaining a high passing accuracy during the build-up. His interior partner is box-to-box Adalberto Carrasquilla of Houston Dynamo FC, always attempting to break forward and create for his teammates in the final third. From a deeper area, he can spray the ball around the field with accurate diagonal crosses and field switches.
Last season was a breakout year for Ismael Díaz at Universidad Católica in the Ecuadorian Serie A with 18 goals and eight assists. While his production has slowed, the 26-year-old remains highly dangerous when cutting in from the wing and placing his shots from difficult angles, netting a hat-trick in the quarterfinal against Qatar. The right winger position should be filled by veteran Alberto Quintero, who featured in three matches and contributed an assist against Martinique. His passing and strength on the ball are useful in commencing the counter, even if others are tasked with the majority of the physical work.
José Fajardo has enjoyed a strong Gold Cup with two goals in the group stage. The 29-year-old Cusco attacker should be familiar following his brace against the USMNT in a November 2020 friendly. He is a bit of an undersized target striker, not brimming with pace but uses intelligent movement and shrewd body control to find himself in opportune moments. His pressing and distribution are also strengths, freeing up the wingers to make inward runs.
Panama have one foot in the CONCACAF Nations League finals thanks to this stellar finish from Jose Fajardo. pic.twitter.com/REABuP8R4Z— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) March 29, 2023
After qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Panama has the inside track on returning to the competition with some of CONCACAF’s biggest players already included as hosts. A win against the USMNT would broadcast a message to the region that Los Canaleros are separating from the pack. The current challenge is maintaining a tight defensive structure, as the hosts have more firepower and should likely come out on top in a back-and-forth attacking battle.
The match is scheduled for Wednesday, July 12th at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, 4:30 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include Fox Sports 1, TUDN, Univision, and FUBO TV (free trial).