The United States and Panama finish up group action on Monday.
With six points from two games, the United States has already locked up the top spot in Group A of the Gold Cup. But the Americans enter their final matchup of the group stage with plenty of motivation, given that they struggled immensely in their most recent outing, a 1-0 win over Haiti. Head coach Jürgen Klinsmann’s side was lucky to escape with all three points, and will want to enter the knockout stage on a more positive note, so there will be no drop-off in intensity from the United States.
Clint Dempsey has scored all three of his country’s goals, and will be important as ever in attack. Jozy Altidore, who is not at full fitness, will look to help Dempsey up front, and if he is unable to start, then Gyasi Zardes, who came on as a substitute and provided the assist for Dempsey’s goal against Haiti, will likely be called into action. For Panama, a win in this game is of the utmost importance, considering a victory will guarantee the country a spot in the knockout stage while even a draw very likely could not be enough to advance. Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo has limited Panama’s opponents to just one goal in each of his two games thus far at the tournament, but the offense has been subpar, and both games finished with identical 1-1 scores.
Luis Tejada and Blas Pérez start up front for the Panamanians and are the top two scorers in their country’s history, but at the age of 33 and 34, respectively, they do not offer the same dynamism as do younger forwards. Still, their experience and talent could be enough to find the back of the net and emerge victorious. This game is difficult to predict, but Panama should be playing with a sense of urgency that the United States will be unable to replicate. With that being said, the Americans should score at least one goal, and once they do so, Panama will be forced to take an offensive-minded approach.