USA v Panama, Gold Cup quarter-final, July 18, 2009
Team USAâ€™s mammoth run of international matches continues with the quarter-final of the Gold Cup against Panama. Bob Bradleyâ€™s side are the favourites to win the CONCACAF competition which they also won in 2005 and 2007 and the USA have never failed to reach this stage of the tournament.
Also going in their favour is the fact that they beat Panama at exactly the same stage of the Gold Cup in 2007. (The US are 3/10 to win on Saturday night.) This match also marks the first time Philadelphia will have hosted the American national team since 1968.
Despite their fine record in the tournament both historically and in their three most recent games, the USA squad is undergoing radical changes even as the tournament progresses.
Steve Cherundolo, Michael Parkhurst, Benny Feilhaber, Charlie Davies and Freddy Adu have all left the squad due to club commitments leaving Bradley with just a 20-man squad to choose from.
As a result the goal scoring responsibilities will fall on the likes of Kenny Cooper and Brian Ching with support from midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Stuart Holden. The latter scored a quality equaliser against Haiti in the last game and has long been tipped to be a player to watch.
Panamaâ€™s record in this competition is pretty woeful. They lost the 2005 final on penalties to Team USA and have also lost their other two previous Gold Cup games within 90 minutes. (Panama are 8/1 to beat the US.)
Their keeper Jaime Penedo has acknowledged the quality in the USA team: â€œWe’ll play the best team at the tournament due to their order and consistency and because they know how to take advantage of their opponent’s mistakes. That’s why we’ll have to do almost a perfect game.”
Panama have had a mixed tournament, losing to Guadeloupe in the opener, then drawing with Mexico in a game where they had two men sent off and finally securing their place in the quarter-finals with a 4-0 win over Nicaragua.
Armando Gun and Ricardo Phillips, the two players sent off against Mexico, return and will likely start. Manager Gary Stempel has a major decision to make over Luis Tejead who scored a brace late on against Nicaragua off the bench.
In front of a fervent home support and with a few emerging talents, the USA should win this one and continue to prove their dominance in the Gold Cup.
101predicts: USA 2 – Panama 0 (11/2)