Michael Bradley on Panama
Other than Mexico, there’s probably no CONCACAF opponent that the U.S. has a more interesting recent history with than Panama. The U.S. has beaten Panama to lift two Gold Cup trophies in 2005 and 2013, while Panama is the only nation to beat the U.S. in Gold Cup group play back in 2011.
Most recently, the U.S. broke the hears of Los Caneleros by eliminating the side on the final day of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying.
While the U.S. has already clinched Group A, the team once again has the chance to potentially end Panama’s run at this tournament with a win. Conversely, a Panama victory would give them second spot in the group, while a draw could get them through as well, depending on other results.
MNT captain Michael Bradley recognized the challenge that Panama, who has drawn both of its matches against Haiti and Honduras, will bring in Monday’s Group finale.
“It’s a big game for them,” Bradley told reporters Sunday. “Obviously they will know what they need to do based on what happens in the first game, but again it’s a good team, a team we know well and we expect them to come out with a lot of emotion, a lot of commitment to do whatever they need to do to get themselves in the next round.”
Panama features three players from Major League Soccer. Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo is teammates with Omar Gonzalez and Gyasi Zardes at the LA Galaxy, while forwards Blas Perez and Gabriel Torres lead the lines for FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids respectively.
That said, Torres is in doubt for Monday’s game after leaving the Honduras match on Friday with an injury. The team will also be without starting defenders Luis Henriquez and Adolfo Machado who are serving one-game suspensions.
It’s HOT in Kansas City
Upon arrival in Kansas City on Saturday, the MNT was met with hot and humid conditions. The temperature for team training at Swope Soccer Park on Sunday afternoon was 95 degrees, which combined with the humidity pushed the feeling upwards over 100.
The conditions seem likely to be similar on Monday night, with weather.com forecasting the temperature as 91 degrees with a heat index of 105.
Klinsmann’s Lineup Choices
With the heat in mind, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann highlighted the luxury he’d have of rotating squad again on Monday night, with his team already qualified for Saturday’s quarterfinal in Baltimore.
Through the first two matches of the tournament, Klinsmann has utilized 19 of the 23 players on his roster. Two of the four that haven’t played are goalkeepers Nick Rimando and William Yarbrough, while midfielders Alejandro Bedoya and Alfredo Morales are the only two field players that haven’t yet appeared.
That could change for Bedoya and Morales against Panama.
“I think they’re both doing really well right now, they’re really catching up,” Klinsmann said. “Alejandro had a little more difficult stretch because he had a little injury issues, so they’re coming along. They’re looking better every day and you might see them tomorrow night.”
Zusi’s Muted Homecoming
With the MNT returning to a great home in Sporting Park – they have a perfect 3-0-0 record - local excitement in Kansas City centered around seeing Sporting’s own Graham Zusi suit up for the national team Monday night against Panama.
Zusi came on as a sub in the team’s 2-1 win against Honduras and went the full 90 minutes Friday’s 1-0 win against Haiti, but Klinsmann said he could be in doubt for Panama.
“Graham got a little knock in the game against Honduras. He couldn’t train today. The warm-up with the team, he was fine and then he had to jump out, so he’s in doubt for tomorrow night. We’ll see Monday morning, maybe it goes away and he’s all ready to go, but if not, it would be a bummer because it’s his home stadium.”