The U.S. Men’s National Team begins a new era under head coach Gregg Berhalter when it takes on Concacaf foe Panama on Sunday, Jan. 27 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, UniMás, UDN).
Here are five things you should know about the MNT’s first opponent of 2019:
Few Concacaf nations have experienced the type of rise that Panama has during the last 15 years. Dubbed Los Canaleros as the host nation of the canal that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Panama’s ascent began during the 2006 FIFA World Cup cycle, advancing to the final round of qualifying as well as the 2005 Concacaf Gold Cup Final, where they fell to the USA 3-1 on penalty kicks. Eight years later they met the USA again, losing 1-0 in the Final at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Having advanced to “the Hex” in three of the last four qualifying cycles, Panama achieved its greatest footballing feat when they clinched a berth to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Drawn against Belgium and England – two of the tournament’s semifinalists – Panama had a rough go of things in the group but did score their first World Cup goal in the 6-1 defeat to England and performed admirably in the finale, a 2-1 defeat to Tunisia.
Here and Now
Having guided Panama to its first FIFA World Cup appearances, manager Hernan Dario Gomez moved on from the job following the tournament. While the search for a new coach continues, Los Canaleros are currently being managed on an interim basis by Gary Stempel. Born in England, Stempel has been a staple of coaching in Panama for years, previously guiding the National Team in 2008 and 2009, as well as leading various youth national teams and club sides in the country.
With Sunday’s match falling outside of the FIFA international calendar, Panama has also called up a roster fully made up of domestic-based players. The youthful, 18-man squad features just seven players that have previously suited up for the senior team, with 2018 FIFA World Cup squad members Abdiel Arroyo and Fidel Escobar (pictured below) providing the bulk of the experience.
Escobar will be familiar with MNT defender Aaron Long, the two having played together with the New York Red Bulls the past two seasons.
Detailed Roster By Position (Club; Caps/Goals):
Goalkeepers (2): Orlando Mosquera (Tauro; 0/0), Eddie Roberts (CAI La Chorrera; 0/0)
Defenders (6): Iván Anderson (Tauro; 0/0), Guillermo Benítez (Plaza Amador; 0/0), Fidel Escobar (unattached; 31/1), José Garibaldi (Árabe Unido; 0/0), Édgar Góndola (Costa del Este; 0/0), Francisco Palacios (San Francisco; 3/0)
Midfielders (8): Rolando Botello (Tauro; 2/0), Omar Browne (CAI La Chorrera; 2/0), Luis Cañate (Árabe Unido; 0/0), Adalberto Carrasquilla (Tauro; 3/0), Carlos Harvey (Tauro; 0/0), Ángel Orelién (Sporting San Miguelito; 1/0), Edson Samms (Costa del Este; 0/0), Ernesto Walker (Plaza Amador; 0/0)
Forwards (2): Abdiel Arroyo (unattached; 39/6), Ernesto Sinclair (Costa del Este; 0/0)
History with the MNT
While the U.S. holds a dominant 12-1-6 all-time advantage against Panama dating back to 1993, the teams had played to four consecutive 1-1 draws prior to their last encounter on Oct. 6, 2017 in Orlando, when the MNT earned a comprehensive 4-0 World Cup Qualifying victory.
The sides have met in the 2005 and 2013 Concacaf Gold Cup Finals – both won by the USA – though Panama’s lone win in the series also came at the confederation championship, a 2-1 victory in the group stage of the 2011 edition.
Panama: The Country and Flag
The southern-most nation in Central America, Panama is bordered to the west by Costa Rica, to the southeast by Colombia. The country’s northern border is lined by the Caribbean Sea while the southern coast touches the Pacific Ocean.
Originally part of the Republic of Colombia, Panama declared its independence in 1903 when the U.S. helped back a separatist movement in the country, which paved the way for the world-famous Panama Canal.
Panama’s flag was developed by María de la Ossa de Amador, then First Lady of Panama, on Nov. 1, 1903, with the design meant to reflect the political situation that existed in the country at that time. The two colored boxes are representative of the two main political parties – blue for the Conservative Party and red for the Liberal Party. The white in the flag symbolizes peace and purity, the blue star stands for the purity and honesty of the life in Panama; the red star represents the authority and law in the country and together the stars stand for the new republic.