By Ivan Orozco
PASADENA, California -- The Panamanian Embassy in Washington D.C. got a close look at the new Gold Cup trophy last month.
“The Gold Cup paid us a visit and as of now it needs to get used to being in Panamanian territory,” said Panama Ambassador, Mario Jamarillo.
Jamarillo, Panama head coach Julio Dely Valdes and the rest of the Central American nation would like to see the Gold Cup in their territory again. Next time, however, they want to have earned the right to do so by virtue of their performances on the field.
Panama enters its sixth Gold Cup trying to become the tournament’s first Central American champion. The Canaleros came close in 2005, reaching the final, before falling to the United States on penalty kicks, 3-1, after a scoreless draw. It was a moment that Dely Valdes will never forget. His twin brother, Jorge, missed on one those penalty attempts
And this time around, Panama once again brings a formidable roster to the Gold Cup. Midfielder Gabriel Gomez of Colombia’s Junior is expected to play a key role for the selection. The 29-year-old competed during that 2005 Gold Cup run and has garnered 84 caps over an accomplished international career.
Other veterans in the squad include goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, who also took in part in the 2005 final, is participating in his fifth Gold Cup; and imposing forward Blas Perez has seven career Gold Cup tallies.
Panama has plenty of experience in the biennial tournament, winning six games and drawing eight in 22 all-time outings. Remarkably, it has been eliminated by the U.S. in the last four Gold Cups, each by one goal or less.
The Panamanians regularly progress to the tournament’s knockout rounds, but face stiff opposition in 2013. The Central Americans open Group A play against two-time defending champion Mexico on July 7 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., before facing Martinique in Seattle (July 11) and Canada in Denver (July 14).
Fans of the Canaleros undoubtedly long to have the Gold Cup trophy on Panamanian soil once again. Only this time, they want their country’s name engraved on the hardware and see it for themselves on the mainland, not at an embassy in the United States.
“It was our pleasure to have the Gold Cup here so that our colleagues and countrymen could see it up close,” added Jamarillo. “Seeing the trophy up close signifies the success our region has had in soccer. Now we need to have people in our country do the same, see this trophy up close. Let’s hope that will happen soon.”