Five Things to Know: Panama

The USMNT goes for a Record 13th Concacaf Gold Cup Final Berth when it faces Panama in the Semifinals on Wednesday, July 12 at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego (7:30 p.m. ET; FS1, Univision, TUDN); Hydrated by BioSteel
By: Michael Lewis

The seven-time champion U.S. Men's National Team will try to reach the Concacaf Gold Cup final for a record 13th time when it faces Panama in the semifinals at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego on Wednesday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m. ET (FS1, Univision, TUDN, FDP).

The Americans, who are appearing in their 12th consecutive semifinals and 16th overall, are No. 11 in the latest FIFA rankings. They eliminated Canada in penalty kicks, 3-2, after playing to a 2-2 draw after 120 minutes in the quarterfinals in Cincinnati on Sunday.

Panama, which is ranked 57th overall and fifth in Concacaf, qualified by recording a 4-0 victory over Qatar in its quarterfinal encounter in Arlington, Texas on Saturday.

The Central American side has been one of the USMNT's most difficult foes in the Gold Cup, sending the team to its first group-stage defeat in 2011, and besting the U.S. in a shootout in the 2015 third-place match.

Here are five things to know about Panama:


Panama qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup for the only time behind its golden generation, which included goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, midfielder Gabriel Gomez and forward Luis Tejada and Blas Perez. The Central Americans finished last among 32 teams in Russia.

They finished fourth in last month’s Concacaf Nations League Finals, losing to Canada in the semifinals, 2-0 on June 15, and Mexico, 1-0, in the third-place match on June 18.

Los Canaleros have reached the Gold Cup semifinals for the fifth time and the quarterfinals on nine occasions in the 10 competitions since 2005.

They were runners-up in 2005 and 2013, losing to the USA on both occasions. They finished third in 2011 and 2015. Penedo was named the Golden Glove winner in 2005 and 2013. Gabriel Torres shared Golden Boot honors in 2013 with the USMNT's Landon Donovan and Chris Wondolowski (five goals apiece).

Perez is Panama's all-time Gold Cup scoring leader with 11 goals, followed by Tejada (10) and Torres (8).


Los Canaleros have proven to be one of the USMNT's toughest Gold Cup opponents. The USMNT have won six of 11 encounters between the sides (6-1-4).

In the first meeting, the USA overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit to rally for a 2-1 win in Dallas on July 14, 1993. Eric Wynalda (68th minute) and Thomas Dooley (73rd minute) scored. Percibal Piggot found the net for Panama.

The teams wouldn't meet again for 12 another years on July 24, 2005 in the final. The U.S. emerged as champions winning in penalty kicks, 3-1, after playing to a scoreless draw in East Rutherford, N.J. Goalkeeper Kasey Keller saved one penalty as two other attempts failed to hit the target. Brad Davis converted the game-winner after Santino Quaranta and Landon Donovan put theirs away.


Landon Donovan (60th-minute penalty kick) and Carlos Bocanegra (62nd minute) scored within a two-minute span to lift the Americans to a 2-1 quarterfinal victory in Foxborough, Mass. on June 17, 2007. Blas Perez tallied for Panama in the 84th minute.

Kenny Cooper drilled home a penalty kick in the 105th minute to lift the USA to a 2-1 win in Philadelphia on July 18, 2009. Perez had given the Central Americans the lead in first-half stoppage time, but Kyle Beckerman equalized in the 49th minute.

The USMNT lost a Gold Cup group stage match for the first time, suffering a 2-1 defeat in Tampa, Fla. on June 11, 2011. Luis Tejada (19th minute) and Gabriel Gomez (36th-minute penalty kick) gave Panama a 2-0 halftime advantage. Clarence Goodson pulled one back for the U.S. in the 66th minute.

Eleven days later on June 22, the USA exacted revenge as they registered a 1-0 semifinal triumph in Houston as Clint Dempsey put away a Donovan feed in the 77th minute. Tim Howard earned the shutout.

The USA captured its fifth Gold Cup crown with a 1-0 triumph at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 28, 2013. Brek Shea’s goal off a rebound in the 68th minute boosted the U.S. while head coach Jurgen Klinsmann watched from a luxury suite while serving a suspension he incurred during the semifinals. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando backstopped the win.


The USMNT and Panama played to a 1-1 tie in the group stage in Kansas City, Kansas on July 13, 2015. Perez had given Panama the lead in the 34th minute, but Michael Bradley's scored, off Alejandro Bedoya's cross in the 55th minute, for the draw.

In the third-place game 12 days later on July 25 in Chester, Pa., the teams played to another 1-1 deadlock, although the Panamanians walked away victors after winning the shootout, 3-2. Reserve goalkeeper Luis Mejia saved two penalty kicks, by DaMarcus Beasley and Bradley. Harold Cummings converted the winner. Roberto Nurse had given the Central America side a 55th-minute lead, but Clint Dempsey countered with his seven goal of the competition 15 minutes later.

For the first time, the USA failed to win its Gold Cup opener, playing Panama to a 1-1 draw in Nashville, Tenn. Dom Dwyer had lifted the Americans into the lead in the 50th minute, but Miguel Camargo's goal on the hour, knotted things up. It was the third consecutive 1-1 draw between the two teams in the Gold Cup.

In his first start for the USMNT in 20 months, Jozy Altidore lifted to the team to a 1-0 win when his bicycle kick found the back of the net in the 66th minute in Kansas City, Kansas on June 26, 2019. It turned out to be Altidore's 42nd and final international goal. Keeper Sean Johnson registered the shutout in his second Gold Cup appearance for the USA.


Outside of the Gold Cup, the teams split their two most recent matches during qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Los Canaleros  recorded a 1-0 home win behind Anibal Godoy's 54th-minute goal on Oct. 10, 2021, before the USA rolled to a 5-1 triumph in Orlando on March 27, 2022. Christian Pulisic led the way with a hat-trick and Paul Arriola and Jesús Ferreira added single tallies.


In last month’s Concacaf Nations League Finals in Las Vegas, Los Canaleros lost their semifinal 2-0 to Canada on June 15 before dropping a 1-0 decision to Mexico in the third-place match three days later.

Panama (2-0-1, 7 points) won the Gold Cup Group C title, conceding goals in added time in all three matches.

In its opener in Fort Lauderdale against Costa Rica on June 26, Jose Fajardo tallied in the 23rd minute and Yoel Barcenas added an insurance goal in the 68th minute en route to a 2-1 win. Juan Suarez scored for Costa Rica a minute into second-half stoppage time.

Fajardo again found the net in a 2-1 victory against Martinique in Harrison, N.J. on June 30 before Michael Murillo scored in the 70th minute. Karl Fabien avoided a shutout, connecting five minutes into second-half injury time.

In its final group match against El Salvador in Houston on July 4, Panama overcame an early 1-0 deficit behind Fidel Escobar (26th minute) and Ismael Diaz (71st minute) before Mayer Gil spoiled its bid for a perfect group record by scoring a minute into second-half stoppage time in a 2-2 result.

The Panamanians left no doubt with a 4-0 quarterfinal win over Qatar in Arlington, Texas on July 8. After Yoel Barcenas tallied in the 19th minute, Diaz put on a one-man exhibition with a nine-minute hat-trick, striking in the 56th, 63rd and 65th minutes. Orlando Mosquera, who started all four contests, recorded the clean sheet.


Thomas Christiansen, a native of Denmark, took over Panama's head coaching reigns on July 23, 2020. He has guided the Central American side to a 20-12-12 mark.

The 50-year-old Christiansen played for several clubs in his native country, as well as Spain and Germany during a 15-year professional career. His teams included Barcelona, Sporting Gijon, Racing Santander, Oviedo and Villarreal in Spain and with Bochum and Hannover in Germany. 


He was the Bundesliga's joint-leading goal-scorer with Bayern Munich's Giovane Élber during the 2002-03 season. A dual citizen of Denmark and Spain, he played twice for Spain's national team, scoring one goal.

Christiansen turned to coaching, directing AEK Larmaca and APOEL in Greece, Leeds United in England and Royale Union Saint-Gilloise in Belgium.


Head coach Thomas Christiansen selected a 23-player squad that competes in Europe, South America and Central America. In fact, players with club affiliations from 13 countries are represented on the roster - Azerbaijan, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and United States.

Cesar Yanis (Potros del Este) is the lone domestic-based player on the team.

Two players perform in Major League soccer - midfielders Anibal Godoy (Nashville SC) and Adalberto Carrasquilla (Houston Dynamo). Defender Omar Valencia, who plays for New York Red Bulls II (MLS NEXT Pro) was called in to replace an injured Michael Murillo before the knockout round, as was Ivan Anderson (Monagas, Venezuela), who took the spot of injured defender Cesar Blackman.

Forward Ismael Diaz is second to the USA's Jesus Ferreira (six goals) in the Golden Boot race with four goals, mostly on the strength of his hat trick against Qatar. Diaz has accrued a team-high nine goals in 28 international appearances, followed by Cecilio Waterman (eight goals).

Los Canaleros rely on a veteran core, including two players with more than 100 caps - forward Alberto Quintero (132), who is the oldest player (35), and midfielder Aníbal Godoy (129).

Panama has seven players over 30 - goalkeeper Luis Mejia (32), defenders Harold Cummings (31), Roderick Miller (31) and Eric Davis (32), midfielder Anibal Godoy (33) and forwards Waterman (32) and Quintero (35).


GOALKEEPERS (3): Luis Mejia (Unión Espanola/CHI; 49/0), Orlando Mosquera (Monagas/VEN; 15/1), Cesar Samudio (Marathon/HON; 1/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Harold Cummings (Monagas/VEN; 90/1), Eric Davis (unattached; 82/6), Fidel Escobar (Saprissa/CRC; 71/3), Roderick Miller Turan Tovuz/AZE; 37/2), Andres Andrade (Arminia Bielefeld/GER; 26/1), Eduardo Anderson (San Carlos/CRC; 5/1), Omar Valencia (New York Red Bulls II/USA; 1/0), Ivan Anderson (Monagas/VEN; 3/0)

MIDFIELDERS (4): Anibal Godoy (Nashville SC/USA; 129/4), Adalberto Carrasquilla (Houston Dynamo/USA; 44/1), Cristian Martinez (Najran/KSA; 29/1), Jovani Welch (Academico de Viseu/POR; 11/0)

FORWARDS (8): Alberto Quintero (Cienciano/PER; 132/7), Yoel Barcenas (Mazatlan/MEX; 75/6), Cesar Yanis (Potros del Este; 42/2), Jose Fajardo (Cusco/PER; 33/7), Cecilio Waterman (Cobresal/CHI; 30/8), Ismael Diaz (Universidad Católica/ECU; 28/9) Freddy Gondola (Alajuelense/CRC; 16/1), Azarías Londono (Comunicaciones; GUA; 5/0)