Bruce Arena’s USMNT has a tough match tonight in Panama. While Friday’s emphatic win over Honduras in San Jose was cathartic after the Jurgen Klinsmann era imploded, there is still a difficult road ahead in World Cup qualifying.
The U.S. currently sits in fourth place, which would force them into a home-and-away playoff series with the fifth place finisher from Asia. Results tonight could push the U.S. as high as second in the table, or they could end up falling back to the bottom. Every game will matter this time around in the Hex.
There is a strong likelihood that Bruce Arena opts for a more conservative approach than we saw in San Jose. Road games are notoriously difficult in CONCACAF and Panama is gunning for revenge after the U.S. eliminated them from the last World Cup with Graham Zusi’s late header in 2013. A more counterattacking style could be on the cards in Panama City tonight.
Anibal Godoy of the San Jose Earthquakes is one of Panama’s primary threats, and he comes into tonight’s match in good form. He has scored two wonder goals for the Earthquakes in MLS this season and has been a key figure for the club.
Godoy forms a strong partnership with Toronto FC’s Armando Cooper in the middle of midfield for Panama. Alberto Quintero on the right wing is another player to watch, left back Jorge Villafaña will have his hands full with the former San Jose man who is now playing in Peru.
Two weaknesses for Panama are up top and in the center of defense. Without their talisman Blas Perez, Panama struggles to score consistently. Two veterans, Gabriel Torres and Luis Tejada could be called upon to get the team out of their scoring slump. In the defense, both Roman Torres and Felipe Baloy are strong and athletic. Defensively, both are up to the task against Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. However, they both struggle in possession. Putting pressure on them when the ball is at their feet could be pay dividends for the U.S.
It will not be easy tonight for Bruce Arena’s squad. Settling for draws on the road is not a bad strategy and could be what is on the cards tonight. If Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe can find some turnovers high up the field, the U.S. might be able to steal a win.
What to watch for tonight as the USMNT visits Panama (Stars and Stripes FC)
Bruce Arena said vs. Panama there might be as many as "4-5 changes" to the #usmnt starting XI from Friday's win.— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) March 27, 2017
Tactical preview of the match (MLS)
Bruce Arena reiterates that Christian Pulisic developed as a youth in the U.S. (ESPN)
How can Minnesota United fix their mess? (E Pluribus Loonum)
Alex Morgan will benefit from playing with Lyon (The Mane Land)
Shanghai Shenhua stadium damaged by fire (BBC)
Everton interested in Orlando City’s Cyle Larin (TSN)
The decline of the Dutch national team program (Independent)
On this day in 1993: Francesco Totti made his debut for Roma, aged 16. Some 24 years, and 612 Serie A games, later he's still going strong. pic.twitter.com/VmxvnQPw5D— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 28, 2017