Coming off an unconvincing 1-0 win against Haiti, the United States closes out Group A play against Panama at Sporting Park in Kansas City. The U.S. is expected to rest a few starters, having secured first place in the group with its victory over Haiti.
Panama on the other hand will be desperately looking for a win. While it is possible the Panamanians could advance with a loss, (contingent on other results) a win would essentially guarantee the team's passage to the quarterfinals.
So far Panama has had a disappointing tournament, tying Haiti and Honduras. The team will have to improve its play to secure a result against the USMNT. Panama's task will be made more difficult by the suspensions of starting defenders Luis Henriquez and Adolfo Machado.
The undisciplined Panamanians lead the 2015 Gold Cup in yellow cards accumulated, red cards accumulated and fouls committed. Panama cannot afford to concede set pieces to the U.S. or have a player sent off.
Veteran strikers Luis Tejada and Blas Perez will be key to Panama's hopes, as both players have been elite CONCACAF strikers for the majority of their careers. They surely will be hoping to have as many opportunities as Haiti's strikers did against the U.S. and if they do, Panama's strikers have the experience to finish.
Even if Jurgen Klinsmann does rest players, Panama will have its hands full as the U.S. has a deep squad. Backups such as Gyasi Zardes and Chris Wondolowski are two very different, but dangerous players.
Both of them are probable starters and Zardes' speed will cause trouble for the Panamanian defense. Another player who could start, for the first time at this Gold Cup, is midfielder Alejandro Bedoya.
Bedoya's status for the game is somewhat of a mystery as he has yet to play a single minute this tournament. Klinsmann stated before the first game against Honduras that Bedoya was still working his way to full fitness after a knee injury. However, it is currently unknown whether Bedoya is fit enough to play against Panama.
Veterans Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley will likely be rested for this match, as both players have played 90 minutes in the past two matches. If Klinsmann is intent on resting starters, Nick Rimando could replace Brad Guzan in the starting lineup although I would surprised if this happened.
Expect an exciting match as Jurgen Klinsmann told the media "We also know we have influence on who is going through, so we are not taking our foot off the pedal there. We will give it a very good game and keep on building confidence and fine tuning elements and improving our game"
Panama has been in bad form recently, but I predict the team will step up its play and defeat the U.S. 2-1.