Action from the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup final between Panama (red) and the United States. The rivals will meet again in a crucial World Cup qualifier for the Panamanians on October 15, 2013, in Panama City, Panama. (Photo: Mexsport)
PANAMA CITY, Panama -- Panama still has a chance to reach its first World Cup finals, but outside assistance will be required Tuesday night to keep its prospects of qualifying for Brazil 2014 alive. The Central Americans (1-5-3, 8 points) need to defeat the visiting United States (6-1-2, 19 points) at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City and hope host Costa Rica (4-3-2, 15 points) downs Mexico (2-5-2, 11 points) the same night. It won't be easy, but it is not impossible for the fifth-place Panamanians, who are playing in what amounts to their second final against the U.S. in just a little more than two months. The two sides met in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup’s championship match on July 28, a 1-0 win for the Americans. Head coach Julio Dely Valdes realizes his team does not control its own destiny and that the best it can achieve is a fourth-place finish, which means an Intercontinental Playoff against Oceania winner New Zealand. "Before, it depended on us," he said. "Not now. But we think it is still possible with a game still to play. We have a home game and Mexico is playing away." On Friday, the Canaleros were five minutes away from a 1-1 draw with Mexico, when Raul Jimenez's unexpected bicycle kick lifted the Tricolor to a 2-1 win. It was Panama’s first loss to the CONCACAF powerhouse in four meetings this year.
Dely Valdes and company return home to face a U.S. squad that will make the trip south without some of its regulars.
After defeating Jamaica 2-0 to capture the CONCACAF Hexagonal title for the third consecutive time, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann made several changes to the Stars and Stripes roster. Injured midfielders Landon Donovan (ankle) and Jermaine Jones (knee) were sent back to their clubs, while goalkeeper Tim Howard and central defender Matt Besler also left as part of a planned player rotation. The U.S. will also be without midfielder Michael Bradley and forward Clint Dempsey, who were injured prior to the encounter against Jamaica. "Landon is still struggling with the ankle injury from a couple weeks ago, so he will go back to Los Angeles and try to get back to 100 percent," Klinsmann said. "Jermaine's case is more of a concern. His knee was bothering him all night but he battled through. It's clear that the issue with his knee is something that should be taken care of right away so he can be 100 percent for Schalke and the National Team as soon as possible."
Barring injury or an unexpected personnel decision, reserve goalkeeper Brad Guzan is expected to start in Howard’s place. The 29-year-old has conceded only five goals in seven league appearances with Aston Villa this season and has posted shutouts in five of his seven all-time World Cup Qualifying outings.”
"Brad Guzan has earned the opportunity to start against Panama," he said. "He has been outstanding for Aston Villa all year, and he has been huge in the games he has played for us in World Cup qualifying."
The faces for the U.S. will differ somewhat, but can Panama change the Americans’ winning ways?