USA vs Panama Final

USA vs Panama Final With its World Cup qualifying campaign back on track, the United States men’s national soccer team now faces a tough road game to test its new-found confidence. The 6-0 demolition of Honduras gave the Americans their first three points of the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and provided some much-needed momentum ahead of Tuesday’s game in hostile territory in Panama.

“The points were obviously very valuable. We were able to put our goal differential back in a good place and for our confidence and the spirit of our team it was important,” said captain Michael Bradley. “We feel good about things. It’s been a good week. We all understand that just because we’ve had one good result, we’re not out of the woods yet. We understand it’s going to be a very difficult game here on Tuesday night.”

Hernan ‘Bolillo’ Gomez is no dummy. The veteran Colombian coach and Panamanian national team boss knows full well that while earning victories at home in World Cup qualifying is key, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if Panama could hold the U.S. to a draw Tuesday.

Gomez didn’t come out and say the Canaleros will be playing for a point against the Americans, but nobody should be surprised if that is the approach Panama takes. It was the same approach Gomez’s team took against Mexico in the first match of the hexagonal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, and even though the Canaleros are coming off a loss to Trinidad and Tobago, a draw on Tuesday would still leave them in good shape.

“We suffered a loss that upset me, and the team, but if you look at the standings we are in third place,” Gomez said. “Which is where you want to be when these matches finish on Tuesday.”

A draw on Tuesday would keep Panama ahead of the United States, but earning that result won’t be easy against a U.S. team riding a wave of confidence from last Friday’s 6-0 dismantling of Honduras. The Americans have made a point in recent days to make it clear they expect a much different kind of match on Tuesday.

“We are not overconfident,” U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. “We know we’re playing against a very good opponent, and realize every time you play a World Cup qualifying game on the road in qualifying it will be a very difficult match.”

Panama will take heart in knowing it was able to hold the U.S. to a draw in the previous two meetings between these nations, both of which came in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. That included a penalty shootout victory over the Americans in the tournament’s third-place match.

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