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USMNT looking for win, Gold Cup quarterfinals qualification against Panama


Photo by Rick Osentoski/


TAMPA - The U.S. men's national team has a history of dominance over Panama, but the Americans are entering their second Group C match in the CONCACAF Gold Cup knowing a win won't come easy.

It wasn't easy the last time the two teams met, nor the time before that. In fact, the last three times the two teams have played the United States has won but by close scorelines. That's why the Americans are being cautious about their match against the Panamanians (8 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel/Telefutura) at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, a match that can result in U.S. qualification for the knockout stage of the tournament should the Americans win and should Canada get at least a draw out of its preceding match with Guadeloupe.

Having played eight games in as many years against Panama, the United States is well aware of the type of problems Los Canaleros present, both physically and tactically. But that doesn't mean the U.S. team wants to be cautious when the first whistle blows. Instead, the Americans are planning on doing what they did against Canada: take the game to the opponent.

"You always want to start games well," Landon Donovan said. "We had a stretch where we didn't start games well over the last few years and it was difficult to always come from behind. You spend a lot of energy when you do that.

"Getting the first goal is always important. In these games specifically it's important, because when you get a first goal and you make some of these teams open themselves up, they become very vulnerable and you can get the second and third and fourth."

The Americans may want to push the game, but center backs Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson will need to be wary of the always-dangerous Blas Perez, who scored a goal in Panama's 3-2 win over Guadeloupe in the Group C opener.

Perez will spearhead Panama's attack (he has 21 goals in 37 international appearances), and will be supported by the likes of Luis Tejada and Gabriel Gomez.

"They're an athletic team. They're good on the ball, they have some good movement," U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra said. "For us, we need to worry about ourselves. Make sure we stay organized and focused on our gameplan. Passing, moving, pressuring them when we can."

Defensively, the Panamanians are far from stout. After taking a 3-0 lead, Panama allowed 10-man Guadeloupe to score two second-half goals to make things interesting in Detroit, and both goals were partly due to lax defending.

That's why the U.S. team will need strong outings from Donovan, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo and Clint Dempsey. If the Americans can apply the same type of pressure it did against Canada, chances are likely to come easier than they did in Detroit.

"They've made it tough for us in the past, and we've had difficulty breaking them down," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "We're not under the illusions that it is going to be an easy game, but we also realize what a good result does for us."

A win on Saturday won't only potentially give the United States automatic qualification for the knockout stages of the tournament, but it would also present a chance to rest starters in the third group-stage match against Guadeloupe. That has been a goal of the Americans since before the tournament began.

"Our goal from the beginning was to make sure we win these (first two) games and give ourselves a chance to finish first in the group and potentially rest depending on how the other results go," Donovan said. "But regardless you want to ensure you've qualified by the second game if at all possible, and then it would be nice if there's a chance to rest guys and get other guys some minutes that we're going to use later in the tournament."

The Americans will need to avoid any hiccups if they hope to get that opportunity while also maintaining their record of dominance against a familiar regional foe.


What do you think the U.S. team needs to do to win? Worried about Panama's attack? Hoping the Americans push the game from the beginning?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I agree we;’re not scoring bushel of goal, and while I’m not saying we’re a brick wall, look at the defenses they’ve been facing.

  2. Dale, not to be rude, but in every gold cup topic you always seem to be like OMG CHICHARITO OMG MEXICO WE GONNA LOSE SO BAD. You’re coming off as a Mexican cheerleader dude, you realize this right?

  3. I would say that Mexico has been playing an overall better game than the U.S. for the last 10 years and it didn’t matter. They mostly dominate possession but the U.S. manages to win. The trick here is the lineup. Mexico has been starting with an extra midifielder then in the 2nd half they run with 2 true forwards and take out a midfielder (idea taken from Aguirre last Gold cup, playing more conservative against U.S). I can see a confident Mexico starting with the 2 forwards attacking the U.S. and getting killed with the counters (Donovan and Altidore are great at that). Of course Hernandez may make a difference with the Mexico chances which they used to miss a lot.

  4. The US doesn’t try to score 5 goals. They score two goals and play all out defense to preserve the lead. They don’t try to score at all, they get into position then bring the ball back. That bit us in the butt at the confederations cup against brazil. It’s almost like the USMNT has mercy on their opponents. Watch tomorrows game and you will see this in effect.

  5. “Player” could mean just last year at the World Cup when Dos Santos was voted as the runner up for young player of the tournament next to Mueller.

    Just so you know, Bradley was involved in this World Cup thing.

  6. US tied El Salvador in WCQ 2-2 in San Salvador. Mexico lost 2-1 in the same match up. There’s no telling how many goals the US would have scored against El Salvador in this tourney. Kind of silly for all the people despiring about the US attack and claiming Mexico as the clear favorites due to the three results we’ve seen so far in this tourney. Canada’s squad is – on paper at least – far superior to both El Salvador and Cuba

  7. I think you really overestimate Sacha’s passing problem. Sacha did a good job in the second half once the subs were made against Spain, and also good against Canada. Kljestan is also more versatile than Freddy.

  8. U.S. has to watch out for the referee (apparently Rodriguez ), he is mostly consistent but he is famous for being quick with the cards for inconsequential plays. Not a big deal for Panama as I don’t expect them to go far. Sometimes he will let the game flow beautifully and then give a yellow to somebody for something very minor. FIFA likes him though.

  9. Not to be rude to you, but I have to take exception with the comment “Dos Santos being better than any player we have”. You can’t honestly put him over Dempsey or Donovan. While Dos Santos does perform well for Mexico, he has not accomplished much at the club level – at any of his stints (including loans to Championship and Turkey). Dempsey (who probably plays more of true midfield role than Dos Santos) scored more goals this year in the Premier League than Dos Santos has scored his entire club career (4 years I believe). While Dos Santos does have talent, IMHO, he has a while to go before I would label him a better player than Dempsey or Donovan. I think Bradley, Jones, & Howard would also disagree vehemently with your statement too depending on your definition of “player”.

  10. I don’t really understand this. Adu has struggled because he’s not played in the right position by Bradley? How does that explain how he got almost no playing time internationally for 3 years.

  11. Not to be rude man, but Mexico’s defense is far better than ours, and their midfield is about equal with Dos Santos being better than any player we have.

    And they all have something we don’t, creativity.

    And in terms of matching their scoring, I just don’t see that happening. Bottom line, the US offense is pretty lethargic and sluggish. I think we beat El Salvador 2-1 the last time we played them, and it required a last minute goal.

  12. Why can’t he say Adu Blows? What are you? The censorship police?

    It may not be a particularly well articulated opinion, but it’s his opinion.

    Grow up, it’s just words.

  13. The realistic position is that Cuba, El Salvador, and Costa Rica have poor defensive players, and do not have a chance at matching up against Mexico in the middle or final thirds of the field. I don’t think many of us were shocked by those score lines.

    The Mexicans thrashed El Salvador and Cuba. You mention the point that we can claim inferior competition, but I’d put good money on the fact that U.S.A. could put up 3, 4 or 5 on both of those teams too, and the U.S. probably will if they draw one of those teams in the quarterfinal.

    Mexico is better than they have been in years right now, but so is the U.S. Maybe we don’t have a starting striker with Chicharito or Dos Santos’ quality, but we do have a midfield that is far superior to Mexico’s, and we have much higher quality in our defense and GK than Mexico’s other possible CONCACAF opponents. I don’t think we should be too worried right now. I think we should hope both Mexico and the U.S. get to the final, and be entertained with a great match-up that either team could win.

  14. I understood.

    Mexico took that doping incident in stride and it didn’t even seem to phase them. That’s scary to imagine how high they must be running on confidence.

  15. That’s my stance as well, I just think all hell will break loose if that occurs.Lets see what happens I guess…USA moral -5 every second Mexico Moral +∞

  16. I think the U.S. just needs to have an efficient first half. Get a couple to go in early so we can get everybody some playing time. Realistically everybody offers a different quality, and it should be a long tournament for us. So having everybody being in form and having minutes is essential. I think everybody needs a look. So our starters have to get it done for us early.

  17. Realistic US fans are already worried.

    This Mexico team is far better than any Mexican squad the US has faced in the last decade.

    I mean come on, Chicarito, De Negris, and Dos Santos have a combined 9 goals and like 6 assists in 2 games. That’s ridiculous.

    You can claim inferior competition, but the United States certainly doesn’t have that offensive output.

  18. He might play defense a bit better but he offers nothing else. Adu can back track and help out as they are saying he is doing that on his club. Sacha offers nothing other than losing balls all the time…yeah, he might stand in the way of things but anyone can do that…

  19. All Bob ever plays is long ball and defense when our strenths are being left out! Look at the strengths..use them and you will keep your job! Torres, Jones, Adu, Bedoya offer so much more than just “bob” ball.

  20. Lets say If the U.S. does not route Panama and Mexico indeed routes Costa Rica , would we start worrying? It would confirm Mexico isin’t fooling around, but it would also confirm our weak attack. What do you guys think?

  21. It’s not that he has to play, it’s that he has to be played to his strengths. Under Bradley, he’s suffered because I can’t recall a game where he was played in his “second striker” “in the hole” favored position.

    Instead Bob has tossed him as a left winger when Beasley was getting phased out which doesn’t benefit anyone.

    It’s like Torres- he doesn’t work for us because we don’t play to his strengths. I hope to see Adu and I hope for him to be given a chance in the position he actually plays.

  22. Met the guys a couple weeks back at the airport in Panama – on their way here. Was shocked how little they appeared in real life. I think our physicality will be enough.

  23. Yes, Adu needs more competitive club experience. Skill on the ball matters little without defensive skill, smart positioning, understanding of tactics…

  24. By what measure is Adu better? And do you understand their roles in midfield are different, or at least understand Sasha can play defense while Adu just wants to run forward?

  25. on the bench can be the super sub like adu can. Same things was said about Chicharito. Lots of skill but lets bring him on slowly…two different positions but then they started to play him and look at where he is at. Just play him of the bench and you won’t be disappointed. No rogers, no sacha…wait till guadaloupe on those guys…by the way, i prefer Lichaj as a left or right mid instead of sacha…he is fast and better passing…

  26. The only reason players get better is by playing them. Adu needs to play…he has better skills on the ball than most of the players and the other team knows that…it will open up better options for the US as they will be scared that he takes them one on one..

  27. You guys are right. The guy who took the US to unprecedented levels of success in the past 5 years, and who has seen these guys for weeks at a time in training, in addition to actually watching their matches (instead of the goal-highlights on SBI) clearly is failing to recognize the sublime talent Adu has that we can all easily spot.
    I agree that Kljestan is very underwhelming, and I would love to see what Adu can do, but I don’t think Bob is incompetent enough to be blinded by any favoritism if Adu were clearly excelling in training.
    I think the main thing Adu has to offer is a hail-mary off the bench if we need to unlock a defense in the last 20 minutes when we are throwing everything forward. He’s always described as a defensive liability, and none of us knows for certain if he can consistently provide good service moving forward given a start and 70 minutes.
    I hope to see him against Guadaloupe, but if he doesn’t start tomorrow I’ll trust that Bob knows what he is seeing in training. (Although if Rogers sees the field again, I may have to question Bob’s judgement.)

  28. Although I don’t disagree with you, I really think this could be a trap game if the players overlook it. Panama is by far a more physical team than the other CA countries. They have some players with pretty good size and like to get physical when they play USA. Blas Perez is not as dominating as he used to be, but they can still create problems offensively. As indicated, defensively, very undisciplined and unstructured from what I saw on Tues.

    Anyway, I think we beat them 3-1, but still think they’ll finish #2 in the group.

  29. Please Bob, leave sasha on the bench. He offers nothing…Bedoya and Adu are better than him. Stop playing favorites. Jones and Edu..either will be good. but no sacha…no sacha…
    Play adu…let him get his feet wet…you won’t be disappointed!!!!

  30. this shouldn’t be a problem…Panama struggled to hold a 3 goal lead against Guadalope who were a man down on Tuesday and the quality of the game was significantly different then when the Canadians and Americans played


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