This Saturday the US Men’s National Team will look sit alone at the top of their Gold Cup Group with a win against Panama. Coming off of a strong showing in their 2-0 win over Canada, the US is favored to come away with the win in Tampa, but Panama also won their first group match against Guadeloupe. The US has never lost to Panama, but recent games between the two sides have been close.
The US backline didn’t wavier much against Canada and when they did they recovered well or Howard came up with the saves needed to keep the clean sheet. Tim Ream had a good performance, but had some slips that could have ended worse than they did. When facing Panama, the back four may have a bit more to deal with in forwards Blas Perez and Luis Tejada. Both players scored to help Panama jump to a 3-0 lead in the first 60 minutes. I would not expect a change in the US back four, but we could see a line-up change to add more experience or to get a bit more speed on the left side.
For the US attack, there shouldn’t be too much of a problem finding the back of the net, especially if Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley and Altidore continue to play as they did against Canada. Guadeloupe didn’t test Panama’s backline much in the first half, but in the final 30 minutes of their opening game Panama’s defense allowed a 10-man Guadeloupe to score twice and nearly ended up with a tie. If the US puts a continuous amount of pressure on Panama they may break down much earlier in the game.
Although they didn’t allow any goals, the US had a very close call of their own late in the game when Tim Howard had to come up big three times before the ball was out of danger. Both teams will have to tighten up their play and keep focused as it gets later in the game. The US has already shown that they can recover mentally after getting beat 4-0 against Spain, but they are in danger of relaxing too much when they are up against a weaker side. To assist this, expect Bradley too keep close to the same line-up against Panama that was used against Canada. Once the US has secured the top spot in the group the players on the bench will probably be earning starts against Guadeloupe.
Kick-off for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 7:00 pm CST and can be seen on Fox Soccer.