Clearly taking an offensive-minded approach, the Central Americans came out of the gate looking to stamp their authority on the game. While Puerto Rico was willing to absorb the pressure, Panama constantly played the ball wide, hoping to use the field's width to its benefit.
Amet Ramirez was the early recipient of his team's well-considered tactics. He gave Panama a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute after receiving a pass from Josue Flores a yard inside Puerto Rico's 18-yard box and rifling a shot into the upper-right corner.
Just before the half-hour mark, Jairo Jimenez beat the Puerto Rican offside trap, burst into the right side of the box and moved toward the goal. Goalkeeper Matthew Sanchez made the save on an attempt that should have increased the Canaleros' advantage.
Following the break, Puerto Rico looked more settled and began to create legitimate chances.
Alvaro Betancourt shot high from 18-yards shortly after the teams emerged from the tunnel.
In the 66th minute, Joseph Marrero took advantage of two errors in the Panamanian defense and accelerated towards the goal. Rather than shoot early or look for an open team mate, the 19-year-old took one touch too many, ultimately shooting into goalkeeper Ivan Picart.
With the danger averted, Panama refocused on what brought it success in the first half. Though not immediately, that style proved effective again.
The Panamanians made it 2-0 in the 84th minute, when team captain Roberto Chen struck a venomous volley past Sanchez from 10-yards away.
Ramirez netted his second two minutes later off a deflected effort, while Alexander Gonzalez completed a neat sequence -- that included a delightful back-heel pass by Jose Muñoz - to give Panama a four-goal cushion two minutes into stoppage time.
The Panamanians will meet Jamaica, which also progressed to the knockout phase, on Saturday to determine the top two spots in Group C.