By IVES GALARCEP
SEATTLE- Panamanian national team forward Blas Perez has been a thorn in the side of the U.S. Men’s National Team for several years, but the FC Dallas forward won’t be on the field on Tuesday night when Panama takes on the U.S. in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying.
Perez will miss Tuesday’s match after complications of gastrointeritis forced him to stay home in Panama rather than travel here for the upcoming qualifier. The Panamanian federation confirmed Perez’s absence on Twitter on Saturday night.
Perez has started for Panama in their past five meetings with the U.S., scoring two goals (in the 2005 and 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cups), drawing a penalty (in the 2011 Gold Cup) and drawing a red card on Geoff Cameron in a friendly in Panama in 2012. The lanky striker is well-known for his well-timed runs, quality finishing and gamesmanship that keeps defenders on their toes.
Now, without Perez, Panama must cope without their leading goal scorer in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying (Perez has 10 goals in 2014 World Cup qualifying, second most in this qualifying cycle, and most by any player still competing in the HEX). The Canaleros will have to lean on forward Luis Tejada to pick up the slack. The former Real Salt Lake striker has yet to score a goal in 2014 World Cup qualifying, though he did score a goal against the U.S. in Panama’s 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage upset win vs. the U.S.
Panama will have to either turn to forward Rolando Blackburn as a starting forward, or switch to a one-forward attack in order to tap into a solid stable of midfielders. Armando Cooper did not start in Panama’s 0-0 draw vs. Mexico on Friday, but is a quality attacking option for Panama head coach Julio Dely Valdes.
Perez’s absence will strike a major blow to a Panamanian attack that has scored five goals in four HEX qualifiers, a modest total for a team that has played three of its first four HEX qualifiers at home.
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