Top Stories

Gold Cup: USA vs. Panama (A look ahead)

Stuart Holden ( 

The U.S. men's national team will face Panama for the third-straight CONCACAF Gold Cup on Saturday (8pm, Fox Soccer Channel) in Philadelphia, with a spot in Thursday's semifinals on the line. The Americans will field a very short-handed squad against a Panama team that has some talent but will still come in as the underdogs.

Panama still has a puncher's chance, what with standout attacking players such as Blas Perez and Ricardo Phillips, and a strong spine consisting of central midfielder Gabriel Gomez, central defender Felipe Baloy and goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. This Panama team has many of the same players from the squad that pushed a first-choice U.S. team to the brink before losing a 2-1 decision in the 2007 quarterfinals, but it isn't as potent as that team was.

To be fair though, the current U.S. team is a far cry from the U.S. team that beat Panama in 2007. In fact, there isn't a single player who started in that game for the U.S. team who will be available on Saturday (Brian Ching was the only current U.S. player to play in that match). The Americans will look to Stuart Holden, Ching and Robbie Rogers to carry the attack, while Chad Marshall and Jimmy Conrad anchor a defense that will surely be tested.

For those of you who missed it, here is my preview on the USA-Panama quarterfinal, along with a brief look at the other quarterfinal match-ups. While I'm sure most readers will be watching USA-Panama, I would highly recommend watching Saturday's quarterfinal between Canada and Honduras, which will probably be the best of the four weekend quarterfinals.

The USA-Panama match will have its share of great match-ups. From Chad Marshall vs. Blas Perez to Stuart Holden vs. Gabriel Gomez, to Brian Ching vs. Felipe Baloy. One interesting match-up will be speedy left winger Victor Herrera vs. Brad Evans, assuming Evans gets the call to start at right back for the United States.

What do you think of the USA-Panama quarterfinal? Expecting a tough match, or do you think the Americans will cruise despite missing the likes of Charlie Davies, Benny Feilhaber and Steve Cherundolo? Think Panama could spring an upset? Or are you more worried about a potential Gold Cup semifinal rematch vs. Canada?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. This will be a great match. We are missing not only our starters but most of our “B” team stars have left for their European camps. This is a team that held Mexico to a draw in what was a very ugly game. I’m excited to see our our young MLS players will fare against this respectable Panamanian squad. Great article…

  2. Panama is going to give the USMNT a very tough match. I could see it going either way. Panama is very big, fast, and talented, plus they’ll utilize phony theatrics on the field and savvy manipulation of the ref which could be the difference in this game. Look for phantom fouls by the USMNT which lead to dangerous Panamanian free kicks. That being said, if the USMNT plays smart and hustles the full 90, we should prevail.

    GO USA!!!!

  3. I live in Panama and everyone is going nuts down here. The US expats though don’t even know there is a game tomorrow. That is part of the problem, we folks sending in text are big fans, but your avg gringo couldn’t care less.

    WRT the game, expect a hard challenge. This is Panama’s World Cup, a chance to pay back for two straight Gold Cup elimination loses, and they will come out physical, looking for an early goal. The US has to play smarter those first 5-10 minutes each half – the last two months we have done a poor job of that, A-, B-, or C-team. Think defense. Go USA!

  4. It will really come down the midfields ability to hold the ball and push the attack. The backline is thin but Conrad and Marshall are solid players and should do fine. Holden, Rogers, and Quaranta are the keys to the game.

  5. Jim B–are u really talking about Panama? If I’d have known any better I would have thought that you were recapping our match in El Salvador. Those guys flop.

  6. I’m in town for a convention and saw several players checking into the hotel at the same time as me about 20 minutes ago. Not really newsworthy, but I had a little fanboy moment when I noticed them. They have just a bit more privacy than USA basketball. I don’t think anyone else in the lobby even batted an eye.

  7. Our C team vs their A team…It’s an even match, as would a match between us and Canada or Mexico. All in all, I’d say if they come out and win a close battle against us we just tip our hats and move on.

    We won the Gold Cup that mattered for this cycle and didn’t waste our trip to the Confederations Cup, getting 4 quality games against quality teams and playing well in the most important ones. My expectations are met at this point (once we qualify for the world cup obviously) so I’m okay to see another team have some glory in this tournament. After all, the guys we are playing in this Gold Cup have very little chance of making the cut for 2010, let alone seeing the pitch.

  8. kjk_40b- According to the Gold Cup website, natural grass is going to be brought in for the final.

    Panama is a legit opponent. They were very, very physical against Mexico. I am a little worried about that right side, but I think we can pull this one out.

  9. At this point with all of our A/B team back with their clubs, I don’t think it really matters. If we win great if not oh well.

  10. Soccer on Turf is a joke…how and why is this acceptable here in the States???

    Posted by: SG | July 17, 2009 at 04:17 PM


    MLS is a Joke

  11. @SG: I know that Costa Rica is getting a nice new stadium (thanks to the Chinese?) but they play WCQ’s on that bad boy.

    TFC is using Turf and so is Montreal.

    So it’s not just us.

    Doesn’t make it any better but at least we have some company.

  12. I think we’ll play much better than we did against Haiti: better pro-US crowd, better playing surface and we’ll have a better line-up. Sure Panama is somewhat better than Haiti, though our attention will be sharper as it’s a knock-out game and some guys have big game experience–think Conrad in WC 2006 and Copa America, Ching,Holden from MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champion cups and league in hostile settings. Holden and Rogers in Olympics. Rogers and Marshall in last years MLS cup. Hey I won’t be shocked if we lose (won’t like it, but expectations are down due to all the departures to Europe). We should feel positive pressure to do some slightly unexpected things, but not the type of pressure say Mexico feels every time now.

    Feel good about our back line with Conrad and Marshall and Pearce is good against this level of competition. Perkins plays intelligent positional ‘keeper and has big games from time with DC. I don’t under-estimate Panama, but like someone said this is an opportunity for some guys to come-of-age. It will be fun to see what our mostly in-season MLS players can do after a week of training. As you said Yankiboy. one game at a time.

  13. I have serious doubts about our “C” team being able to pull this one out. Hopefully Ching can get his head on a couple of set pieces and redirect them in…

    We have very little bite left on offense with all the guys off to Europe and the talent gap between the teams is narrow.

  14. I expect this match will be played in a typical Panama v US fashion. Just pray the US score early because the longer the match stays scoreless the more the Panamanians will be fake diving and on the ground. Look for a dive every time an American gets within two feet of a Panamianian player. Also look for the goalie to go down hurt when he makes a save. Look for at least 4 -5 players to cramp up on the field. Look for Panama to squeak a bogus card out of the ref and the US might need some heroics down the stretch from some C players to pull this one out. I will be keeping a watch on how long Panamanian players lay on the ground and see how much injury time they manage to cheat off the clock. Hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

  15. Patrick,

    Philadelphia does not have turf… grass at the Linc. As you said, both fields in DC are grass, but Giants Stadium and Gillette are both synthetic.

    No word (to my knowledge) on whether the new Meadowlands’ Stadium will have grass…

  16. Thanks to Don Garber, I won’t be able to watch this game since I’ll be at RFK singing about the black and red.

    Thankfully, half the Nest has Blackberrys, so we’ll be kept up-to-date on the score. I’m not worried about our defense. I’m worried about being able to put pressure on their backline.

    Unfortunately, the games will get harder as the tournament gets deeper.

  17. will,

    The stadiums needed to hold the crowds they want to attract in the places they want them pretty much all use turf. All the football fields in the NE except washington are turf, dallas’ new one is turf, seattle, etc. I guess they could have gone for the rose bowl, but that place is MASSIVE. Can’t use baseball stadiums because its in season, and MLS are using their own stadiums for games

  18. This match shapes up a something of a “coming of age” moment for some of the younger players. Panama are a tough bunch that stood toe to toe with Mexico. I’m looking for Holden, Rogers, and Marshall to earn their stripes in this one.

    Is it just me, or does anybody else think Perkins looks like David Cone?

  19. Panama is legit. I can’t believe people are still shedding a tear for Mexico just cause Panama didn’t take their bull crap tactics. I mean even the coach was cheapshotting them, not to mention thousands of wild fanatics chucking stuff at them during the game. I’ve said it before, these guys aren’t your typical five foot nothing floppers from Central America. They may not be as technically sound as other Latins but they are big and strong. I was happy to see the canaleros push around the Mexicans out there, good for them for not diving around and crying like everyone else wearing green. THAT’S how you take points form Mexico. We’ve got a serious test tomorrow. Their story this tournament reminds me an awful lot of another physical underdog that barely made it through and actually fought hard to the final (Hint: US)

  20. It’s a shame Panama was kept out of the Hex by questionable calls in their game at San Salvador. They would have made a more interesting Hex, IMHO.

  21. Why is the Costa Rica match on turf. They played Canada on turf in Miami as well. This is obviously a surface they are used to. You’d think with this being played all across the U.S., there would be no need for any games to be on turf.

  22. @James-He played well for Kaiserslauten last season. His problem wasn’t his height in the game against Haiti. It was his concentration. He is a good keeper.

    That first goal should have never been allowed to go through his 6 yard box without him having grabbed it or redirected it.

    I do agree with you that he should not be used for any more games this tournament. let him play some meaningless friendlies until he shows better in real game situations.

  23. @Eric Geezy: We already got something going on about that on the thread about Esky’s miracle Volley last night against Red Bull.

    Oh–And STOP listening to Cowherd

    (just kidding…)

  24. Anybody know what the deal is with US vs Mexico TV. I was listening to Cowherd and it sounds like it wont be televised.

  25. Too bad we’ll have a CONCACAF ref for the game who’ll let hack-play go. If the reffing in the region got better, I think the players–not just the US’s, but every country’s–would have to adjust or lose every game by forfeit once half the team had drawn reds.

  26. I’m with yankiboy. The US has definitely improved, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Panama is a serious and very credible opponent.

    Still, I do think the US will advance, but only if they buck up and play like they’re the ones looking for the upset.

  27. “Still has a puncher’s chance” is an interesting choice of words. I saw so many cheap shots from Panamanians early on in the Mexico match I almost felt bad for Mexico. Almost.

  28. Straight up. We CANNOT look past the “canaleros”.

    Especially with the guys that we had leave in the last few days, if Panama plays us like they played Mexico, it could be a very tough and unhappy night in Philly.

    I’m not thinking about meeting the Canucks until we handle biznez with Panama first.

    Some of the guys that we played against Haiti need to be on the bench tomorrow night. Heck, I wouldn’t feel too happy about using Sacha Kljestan tomorrow.

    Don’t sleep on Panama! They might grind out a result that hurts some of our feelings.

    From here on out, Bradley should limit the experimentation.


Leave a Comment