Who: USMNT vs Panama
When: Tuesday @ 9pm ET
Where: Kansas City
Line: Panama +650 | Draw +330 | US -230
Two wins from two matches have qualified the USMNT for the knockout stages of the 2019 Gold Cup, and the same can be said for Panama, Wednesday night’s opponent.
The U.S. defeated Guyana 4-0, and Trinidad and Tobago 6-0. Winning by a combined 10-0 score is an impressive start as they adjust to new coach Gregg Berhalter and his system.
Meanwhile, Panama defeated Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 and Guyana 4-2.
USMNT vs Panama Preview: Familiar Foes
Panama is a familiar foe for the Americans and with a healthy dose of MLS and former MLS players U.S. fans will be familiar with the Canaleros.
Seattle’s Ramon Torres anchors the Panama defense, after a season that saw him lose his starting position with the Sounders. Torres has been reinstated and he continues to be an inspirational leader for the Canal men.
Red Bulls fullback Michael Murillo is another familiar face and his ability to get forward can trouble the U.S. former Toronto FC midfielder Armando Cooper is playing his soccer in Israel these days, but Berhalter and his players will remember the midfielder from his MLS days.
Panama striker Gabriel Torres never quite caught on with the Colorado Rapids but he has come back to lead the line for Panama.
With both teams already assured of moving on to the next round, the coaches will be free to experiment and rotate. It should be noted that Berhalter went with the same starting 11 in consecutive matches, as he sought to build continuity. Will he again?
Berhalter is unlikely to make it three in a row with the same 11 but he may not make wholesale changes that many might expect.
Goalkeeper Zack Steffen is likely to maintain his place. Reggie Cannon impressed in a brief cameo versus Trinidad and Tobago and may be in line for a start if Nick Lima gets a night off. Center backs Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman are coming off of big games, with Long scoring a brace versus Trinidad and Tobago.
Tim Ream may also get a rest, while Christian Roldan could step in for Weston McKennie and Michael Bradley may sit for Wil Trapp. Will Christian Pulisic get a night off? How about wingers Paul Arriola and Tyler Boyd, so good in the first two U.S. matches, will Berhalter rest them?
Can’t take anything for granted at this Gold Cup
One thing for sure is that neither team can take anything for granted. Especially not after Haiti’s 2-1 win over Costa Rica to win its group. Even Bermuda topped Nicaragua by a 2-0 scoreline.
There have been shock results, blowouts, and in the case of Honduras, last rights for a reeling program that has slid down the CONCACAF rankings to the point of losing 1-0 to Curacao!
This while everyone is taking turns beating Cuba 7-0. First Mexico scored a touchdown against the Cubans, then Martinique could only manage a 3-0 win in game two before Canada hung another seven against the hapless Cubans.
With all of this swirling around Berhalter and his team, Wednesday night’s winner will probably face a weaker team in the next round, most likely El Salvador or Curacao, rather than the stronger Jamaica side in the quarterfinals.
Mexico, who only edged Martinique by a 3-2 score on Sunday, will take on reeling Costa Rica in another of the quarterfinals, with a possible U.S. and Mexico showdown a bit further down the road.
With Berhalter looking to impose his style on the USMNT, perhaps this game is a bit more important to the U.S. than Panama, so look for the Americans to prevail on Wednesday night.