PREVIEW: USMNT Aims to Keep World Cup Qualifying Momentum Rolling at Panama

USA Stands First in the Octagonal Following 2-0 Win Vs. Jamaica in Austin, Texas; Kickoff from Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, Panama Set for 6 p.m. ET on Paramount+ and Universo

CHICAGO (Oct. 9, 2021)-- Following a strong 2-0 victory vs. Jamaica spearheaded by 18-year-old forward Ricardo Pepi’s two goals, the U.S. Men’s National Team will continue its World Cup qualifying campaign at Panama on Oct. 10 in Panama City. Entering the match undefeated and in first place in the Octagonal standings, USA-Panama is the USMNT’s second qualifying match in seven days this month and fifth match overall of 14 that will take place for Concacaf’s Final Round of World Cup qualifying.


Kickoff from Estadio Rommel Fernandez is set for 6 p.m. ET on Paramount+ and Unvierso. Fans can follow the USMNT during World Cup qualifying on Twitter (@USMNT), Instagram (@USMNT), Facebook and the official U.S. Soccer App.



GOALKEEPERS (2): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 11/0)


DEFENDERS (8): George Bello (Atlanta United; 4/0), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 14/1), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 7/0), Shaq Moore (Tenerife/ESP; 12/1), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim/GER; 3/0), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 13/2), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 67/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 18/2)


MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 41/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 18/1), Gianluca Busio (Venezia/ITA; 6/0), Luca de la Torre (Heracles/NED: 4/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 32/8), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 7/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 28/0)


FORWARDS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 11/5), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 40/8), Matthew Hoppe (Mallorca/ESP; 5/1), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 2/3), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 14/1), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 63/14)



Three players on the USMNT’s October roster did not travel with the team to Panama: goalkeeper Zack Steffen, defender Antonee Robinson and midfielder Weston McKennie. Robinson and Steffen did not travel due to the quarantine requirements for those returning to the United Kingdom, while McKennie experienced soreness in his right quadriceps and will focus on preparation for Wednesday’s USA-Costa Rica match, presented by Volkswagen. The USA closes its October stretch of three qualifiers in seven days vs. Los Ticos at Field on Oct. 13 (ESPN2, ESPN+, UniMas, TUDN).






Time (ET)/Result

TV Info

Thursday, Oct. 7


Q2 Stadium; Austin, Texas

2-0 W

ESPN2, Univision, TUDN

Sunday, Oct. 10


Estadio Rommel Fernandez; Panama City, Panama

6:00 p.m.

Paramount+, Universo

Wednesday, Oct. 13

Costa Rica Field; Columbus, Ohio

7:00 p.m.




The USMNT kicked off its October slate of World Cup qualifying matches with a dominant

2-0 win against Jamaica on Thursday night. Playing its first World Cup qualifying match in Texas before a sell-out crowd at Austin’s Q2 Stadium, two second-half goals from Ricardo Pepi were the difference vs. the Reggae Boyz

The U.S. dominated possession in the first half against Jamaica’s defensive low block while searching for a goal, and came out firing after the break. Pepi’s two goals came off otwo nice full-field attacking runs, the first sprung from goalkeeper Matt Turner and the back line before Sergino Dest teed Pepi up for the opener and when Brenden Aaronson provided the assist on the second.



After sparking the USMNT to a historic 4-1 win at Honduras last month with a goal and two assists, eighteen-year-old forward Ricardo Pepi continued his red-hot ways vs. Jamaica. The striker became the youngest player to score in back-to-back World Cup qualifying matches and the second-youngest to score multiple goals in a game behind only Christian Pulisic. Pepi’s 12 MLS goals also lead all U.S eligible players in the league this season.



Thursday’s match provided another opportunity for the young USMNT to gain valuable World Cup qualifying experience. The Starting XI was the second-youngest in team history at 23 years, 111 days, behind only last month’s match at Honduras. Pepi and midfielder Yunus Musah were the first 18-year-olds to start a qualifier together in team history.


Five more players made their qualifying debuts: defenders Shaq Moore and Walker Zimmerman, midfielders Yunus Musah and Luca De La Torre plus forward Tim Weah. Through four matches, 21 players have made their WCQ debut, already eclipsing the total number of first qualifying caps through 16 matches of the last cycle.


Before this summer, goalkeeper Matt Turner and defender Miles Robinson each only had one appearance for the USMNT. Since then, they’ve played in 10 straight games for the USMNT, including every minute of World Cup qualifying, and have anchored the defense to seven clean sheets and just three goals allowed during an 8-0-2 run.



After making its first FIFA World Cup appearance last cycle, Los Canaleros enter Sunday’s match in fourth place in the Octagonal standings. Panama got off to an undefeated start in World Cup qualifying during the September window, kicking things off with a scoreless draw vs. Costa Rica before a nice 3-0 victory at Jamaica in Kingston and a 1-1 draw vs. Mexico.

Panama dropped its first World Cup qualifying match this cycle on Thursday night, falling 1-0 to El Salvador in San Salvador. After some nice early saves from goalkeeper Luis Mejia, Enrico Duenas netted the game’s only goal in the 37th minute off a rebound from Mejia and Los Canaleros were unable to respond.


Teams qualify for the World Cup through their regional confederations, and the USMNT has to run the gauntlet of Concacaf (North America, Central America and the Caribbean) to reach Qatar 2022. For the first time, eight teams are contesting the final round of World Cup qualifying for Concacaf from September to March. The nations play a 14-match round-robin, home and away against each of the seven other teams.


READ MORE: Five Things to Know About 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the World Cup qualifying schedule has been condensed from 18 months to seven. To accommodate the new schedule, the USMNT has to play three matches during four of the five international windows rather than the usual two matches.



U.S. Soccer kicked off World Cup qualifying with the launch of “Only Forward,” / “Solo Pa’lante,” the USMNT’s creative campaign focused on uniting fans and the team in a collective journey to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.


Developed in conjunction with the players, coaches and staff, “Only Forward / Solo Pa’lante” highlights a young, diverse and global-minded Men’s National Team that is humble yet resilient as it looks to tackle the challenge of World Cup Qualifying during the next eight months. As the USMNT continues to gain valuable experience on the road to Qatar, it’s ready to show the world that they are prepared to change the way the world views American soccer.


  • Forward Brenden Aaronson continued the hot start to his international career and earned his fourth career assist vs. Jamaica. Aaronson has scored five goals with four assists in just 11 caps.

  • Defender Sergiño Dest recorded his second career USMNT assist against Jamaica and first since the Concacaf Nations League group stage vs. Canada in Nov. 2019.

  • Midfielder Kellyn Acosta appeared in his 18th straight USMNT match vs. Jamaica, dating back to Dec. 2019. He’s the only player to appear in all 17 matches for the USA this year.

  • Defender Miles Robinson and goalkeeper Matt Turner are the only two players to play every minute of World Cup Qualifying thus far.

  • Players hail from clubs in nine different countries: USA (11), Spain (4), Italy (1), Germany (2), Austria (1), Belgium (1), France (1), Netherlands (1) and Turkey (1).

  • Fourteen players return from the September World Cup Qualifying camp.

  • Twelve players are age 22 and younger: Tyler Adams, Luca de la Torre and Mark McKenzie (22); Chris Richards and Tim Weah (21); Brenden Aaronson, Sergiño Dest and Matthew Hoppe (20); George Bello and Gianluca Busio (19); Yunus Musah and Ricardo Pepi (18).

  • Four players could make their World Cup Qualifying debuts in Sunday’s match against Panama: Gianluca Busio, Matthew Hoppe, Sean Johnson and Chris Richards.

  • Twenty players were part one of the USMNT’s championships during the summer: seven participated in the Nations League and 13 in the Gold Cup, with Acosta and Sebastian Lletget on both rosters.


  • The USMNT is 16-1-6 vs. Panama all-time, outscoring Los Canaleros 47-14.

  • The teams most recently faced off during the November international window, a 6-2 win for the USA in Wiener-Neustadt, Austria. The U.S. scored in bunches as Gio Reyna, Nicholas Gioacchini and Sebastian Soto netted their first USMNT goals.

  • The U.S. is an undefeated 6-0-2 against Panama in World Cup qualifying, including a 2-0-2 mark in Panama City.

  • The USA’s last qualifier in Panama City came in March 2017, a 1-1 draw with a goal from Clint Dempsey.

  • One of the teams’ most memorable match-ups came in Panama City in October 2013, a 3-2 victory for the U.S. Already qualified for the World Cup, the USA scored two goals in stoppage time to eliminate the hosts from World Cup contention. A draw would’ve eliminated Mexico from World Cup contention, but the result sent El Tri to the intercontinental playoffs.

  • YELLOW CARD WATCH: Tyler Adams, DeAndre Yedlin (USA) // Anibal Godoy (PAN)




GOALKEEPERS (3); Jose Calderon (San Francisco; 42/0), Luis Mejia (Fenix/URU; 35/0), Orlando Mosquera (Always Ready/BOL; 4/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Cesar Blackman (Dunajska Streda/SVK; 5/0), Harold Cummings (Always Ready/BOL; 76/1), Eric Davis (Dunajska Streda/SVK; 63/3), Fidel Escobar (Alcorcon/ESP; 47/1), Jorge Gutierrez (Tauro; 0/0), Oscar Linton (Imabari/JPN; 4/0), Michael Murillo (Anderlecht/BEL; 46/2), Jiovany Ramos (Atletico Venezuela/VEN; 3/0)


MIDFIELDERS (9): Abidel Ayarza (Cienciano/PER; 17/2), Yoel Barcenas (Leganes/ESP; 54/2), Armando Cooper (Arabe-Unido; 118/9), Anibal Godoy (Nashville SC/USA; 109/2), Cristian Martinez (Plaza Amador; 7/0), Alfredo Stephens (Aragua/VEN; 16/1), Alberto Quintero (Universitario/PER; 114/7), Jose Luis Rodriguez (Sporting Gijon/ESP; 30/2), Cesar Yanis (Zaragoza/ESP; 21/2)

FORWARDS (7): Abidel Arroyo (Maccabi Petah Tikva/ISR; 48/7), Rolando Blackburn (The Strongest/BOL; 44/10), Jair Catuy (Always Ready/BOL; 6/3), Ismael Diaz (Tauro; 12/2), Fredddy Gondola (Deportivo Tachira/VEN; 1/0), Eduardo Guerrero (Maccabi Tel Aviv/ISR; 4/0), Gabriel Torres (Alajuelense/CRC; 97/22)



  • While five teams automatically qualified to the final eight-team round of World Cup qualifying, Panama earned its Octagonal berth as one of three nations to emerge from 30 teams competing in the first two rounds.

  • Seeded fourth in the first round of qualifying, Panama won Group D with four straight victories. After two tight one-goal wins vs. Barbados and Dominica, Panama blew things open with a 13-0 win against Anguilla and a 3-0 victory vs. Dominican Republic.

  • In the six-team second round, Panama drew on-the-rise Curacao for a home-and-away series. Los Canaleros won 2-1 at home and a scoreless draw at Curacao secured their spot in the Octagonal.

  • At this summer’s Gold Cup, Panama finished third in Group D with a 1-1-1 record. The Central American nation opened with a wild 3-3 draw vs. Qatar before falling 3-2 to Honduras and topping Grenadad 3-1.

  • Panama’s squad plies its trade in a diverse slate of nations. Five play domestically, while 22 are based abroad in Bolivia and Spain (four each), Venezuela (three), Israel, Peru and Slovakia (two each) plus Belgium, Costa Rica, Japan, the USA and Uruguay (one each).

  • Midfielder Anibal Godoy is a teammate of U.S. defender Walker Zimerman at Nashville SC.

  • Midfielder Armando Cooper leads the roster with 118 caps. Cooper, Godoy and midfielder Alberto Quintero all have more than 100 appearances for Panama.

  • Forward Gabriel Torres is the team’s leading scorer with 22 international goals. He netted four goals vs. Anguilla in the first round of qualifying.

  • Head coach Thomas Christiansen took charge of Panama in July 2020 after previous coaching stints in Belgium, Cyprus, and England with Leeds United. The Spanish international enjoyed a long playing career across Europe, leading the Bundesliga in goals for the 2002-03 season with VfL Bochum.

  • Panama made its FIFA World Cup debut at Russia 2018 after finishing third in the Hexagonal. Los Canaleros finished fourth in Group G with three losses.

  • This is Panama’s third consecutive and fourth overall appearance in the Final Round of World Cup qualifying since the Hexagonal began in 1998. ­