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U-20 MNT Pre-Game Quote Sheet vs. Panama

U.S. U-20 MNT Head Coach Thomas Rongen
On team’s mentality heading into the final match vs. Panama:
“Anytime you go on the road in CONCACAF, it’s always tough. Our goal is to get to the World Cup, and we need to play well against Panama to do that. We will be doing everything we can to get a result and get us to our sixth consecutive World Cup. That was our aim before the first game, and it continues to be our aim before the last game.”

On the experiences he plans to draw from in preparing to face Panama:
"I've seen Panama play and we've seen tape on Panama just like we've scouted all of our opponents. I coached against his brother in MLS when I was the coach at D.C. United so I've got a tremendous amount of respect for their knowledge of the game and I know his team is well prepared with some exceptional players. We respect all of our opponents here, and as I've said from day one, the home team here (Panama) is the favorite in the tournament.”

U.S. MNT Forward Sal Zizzo
On his expectations for the match vs. Panama:
“I’m expecting them to come out hard. They need to come out and play hard because a tie doesn’t automatically get them in to the World Cup. Unlike Guatemala who would just sit back, we figure Panama is going to come out and play, and we like when teams do that because we feel it benefits us.”

On what the team needs to do to get a result vs. Panama:
“We need to keep playing aggressive and play to win, but still know in the back of our minds that a tie gets a through as well. We’re looking to not give up any goals and win the game because we have to come out and try to win every game. If a tie comes, we won’t complain either.”

U.S. MNT Defender Tony Beltran
On what the team needs to do to get a result vs. Panama:
“I really don’t think we need to do anything drastically different, we just need to come out with the same gameplan and take it to them. The defense has really been clicking and doing well the last couple of games – we held them to one shot last game. We’re a pretty offensive team and we put other teams back on their heels which takes a lot of pressure off our defense, so it makes things a lot easier on us.”

On getting off to a fast start vs. Panama:
“It’s very important. Against Haiti, it probably took us about 15 minutes to get going and that keeps the other team in the game. It would be really great if we could get an early goal and put Panama on their heels because then we could just take it to them the whole game. I think if that had happened vs. Guatemala, if we had finished some of our chances early, it would have been a completely different game.”

U.S. MNT Forward Johann Smith
On the team’s performance so far in qualifying:
“We got three points in the first game. Unfortunately we tied the second game vs. Guatemala. I thought we should have won, we were definitely the better team, but you could see from the way they played, they were quite content with the draw.”

On his expectations for the match vs. Panama:
“They play a high line, so a lot of balls in behind will do us well because we have a lot of speed on this team. I think if everyone comes together and plays their best, no one can really hang with us in CONCACAF. I have a lot of faith in this team and I think if we work together tomorrow, good things will happen.”

On the strengths of his game that he hopes to use if he plays against Panama:
“If I get the not tomorrow, I just want to use my speed to get in behind their defense and to get by players. I also want to get shots on goal and get my crosses in, and otherwise just be dangerous in the attacking third and hopefully put one in the back of the net.”

U.S. U-20 MNT Forward Preston Zimmerman
On how the circumstances of this match are similar to those surrounding the U-17s’ qualification-clinching match in 2005:
“It’s literally the same excact situation. I think it’s in our favor once again to be playing the home country in front of all of their fans and with all of the booing it’s just going to fuel as that much more. It’s going to serve as motivation because the crowd is going to help us out by booing us because it’s just how us American guys work in that situation. It makes us more motivated to come out and do something special.”

On getting off to a fast start vs. Panama:
“I think it’s very important because panama will come out and they will be ready and they’ll be firing, but one goal will take everything out of them. It will be very hard for them to come back from that, and if we score first, I think we’ll be in a great position.”