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CONCACAF Gold Cup Semi-Final: US – Panama Preview

2011 June 21
by Kyle Nelson

Juan Agduelo could be a key factor in the US success if he takes the injured Jozy Altidore's spot again. Photo by Jeremy Olson - www.digitalgopher.net

Tomorrow the US will get a second chance at Panama when the two teams meet in the semi-final of the Gold Cup. In group play, Panama earned its first ever win against the Americans while also snapping the US’s undefeated streak when competing in the Gold Cup group stage.

Since the 2-1 loss to Panama, the US has come back with two straight shutouts and has tightened up its back four by moving captain Bocanegra to center back and bringing in Lichaj at left back. Against Jamaica, Lichaj had an inspiring performance that may have solidified his role with the US defense. The US defense should also have an easier time with Panama because of the suspension of physical forward Blaz Perez. However, the back four will still have to deal with Luis Tejada who has scored for Panama in every game so far this tournament.

The US’s match against Jamaica marked the best showing out of the midfield this tournament despite Landon Donovan being left out of the starting eleven. Finally given a chance to start, Bedoya and Kljestan put their fresh legs to use against a speedy Jamaican side and showed that their games have improved while playing in Europe, helping the US keep possession, controlling the game and the speed of play. Against Panama expect Donovan to be back in the starting line-up at the expense of one of the pair.

After suffering an injury in the early minutes of the game against Jamaica, Altidore was taken off for Juan Agudelo who had lost his starting spot after the loss to Panama. However, against Jamaica Agudelo was able to get his confidence back with improved play that led to him earning an assist on Dempsey’s goal. Altidore is scheduled to have an MRI today so it is expected that Agudelo will get a second crack at Panama’s back line, starting up top either in the same formation used against Jamaica or perhaps paired up with Dempsey.

Fatigue could play a large role in the semi-final for both sides. With the exception of Donovan most of the US starters have not had any time to rest and will be playing in their fifth game in 15 days. Panama however, was able to rest their starters in their final group stage game after guaranteeing their first place finish in the group. That extra rest could come in handy after Panama’s quarter final game that went into PKs after 120 minutes of play.

Kick-off is scheduled for 6:00 pm CST and can be seen on Fox Soccer.

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