Positive Panama targets CMOQ semifinal berth

Panama's Edgar Yoel Barcenas (#11) is congratulated by teammate Josiel Nunez after scoring against Canada in the 2015 CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship. (Photo: Mexsport) 

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Despite only accumulating one point from two CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship (CMOQ) games, Panama is hopeful of advancing to the semifinals out of Group A. 

The Canaleros rallied for a 1-1 draw with Cuba in their opener and fell 3-1 to Canada, conceding two goals while playing a man down after Carlos Small’s 33rd minute ejection. 

In order for progression to remain a possibility, two basic things must happen:

a) Cuba (0W-1D-1L, 1 point) needs to beat or tie Canada (1W-0D-1L, 3 points) in the first game of a doubleheader at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park;

b) Panama (0W-1D-1L, 1 point) has to beat the United States (2W-0D-0L, 6 points). 

If each of  scenarios come to fruition, tiebreakers will come into play. 

Head coach Leonardo Pipino, who guided Panama to a place in the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup, believes his team has performed better than results imply. 

“With 10 men we still had the possibility of tying,” he said, referencing the loss to Canada. “The only thing we had to do was avoid conceding a goal. The team played hard. They did well. I can’t say anything about anybody, everybody did a great job.” 

Thinking about the Cuba encounter, the Argentinean wishes he could get back those two dropped points. Maykel Reyes gave the Caribbean runner-up a sixth-minute lead, but it took 70 minutes for the Panamanians to equalize through Josiel Nuñez. 

“After watching the tape against Cuba, we saw that we deserved to win,” expressed Pipino. “Maybe we played poorly for 20 minutes or so, but it was a great game that we deserved to win.” 

There’s nothing that can be done about the past, however. Pipino has to get his team focused on the U.S., which has already earned a place in the final four. 

“We know that we always have to win,” the 38-year-old finished. “We feel that we are capable of winning. We don’t feel that we’re inferior to the United States. We know we have the capacity, the capability of going out there and getting the win.” 

Panama has lost each of its three CMOQ meetings against the Americans, falling most recently in 2008, 1-0.