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CONCACAF Gold Cup Third Place Preview: USA vs. Panama

The U.S. takes on group stage opponent Panama in the Gold Cup third place match.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The United States plays Panama, in the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2015 third place match at PPL Park. The U.S. is in the third place match after being upset by Jamaica, 2-1, in the semifinals. Panama lost to Mexico - 2-1 - after extra time, in a semifinal game marred by controversy.

The USMNT and Panama faced each other earlier in the tournament in Group A play. There was little separating the two teams as that game finished in a 1-1 tie. The U.S. won Group A to advance to the quarterfinals and Panama progressed as the best third-place team in the tournament.

Panama will have an uphill battle as two of its key starters are suspended. Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo (LA Galaxy) and veteran striker Luis Tejada were both suspended by CONCACAF for two matches.

Penedo was punished for pushing an assistant referee during the semifinal against Mexico. Luis Tejada was suspended for not leaving the field in a timely manner after being ejected in the same game.

The Panamanians feel that they deserve to be in the final and rightfully so, after Mark Geiger's incorrect penalty decision allowed Mexico to tie the match in stoppage time. But it remains to be seen whether the Panamanians will take this match seriously.

Earlier in the week Luis Tejada told Panamanian television station RPCTV "We're going to gather as players and make a good decision as to what will happen with the third-place game. " According to Fox Soccer's Kyle McCarthy, Panama played kickball at practice on Friday instead of training.

If the Panamanians don't show up to the match or stage a protest during the game (by doing something such as laying down on the field) they are likely to face CONCACAF sanctions.

For Panama, the key players are wily veteran striker Blas Perez (FC Dallas) and captain Roman Torres. Perez scored Panama's goal against the U.S. in the previous encounter and will be a handful for the U.S. defense.

Blas Perez is a strong and physical player, who is known to do anything to win.  Perez and the suspended Luis Tejada have great chemistry, but without his strike partner, things will be much tougher for Perez.

Center-back Roman Torres is the heart of the Panamanian defense. The physical 6'2'' defender will make life difficult for U.S. attackers and he is also an offensive threat as evidenced by his goal against Mexico.

Panama's style of play is very similar to the Jamaicans. However, the Jamaicans are much better organized and are more disciplined.

Like the Jamaicans, the Panamanians do not possess the ball well. Against Mexico, Panama had only 28% possession, but still almost won the game.

Panama is a fast and physical team. The team is at its most dangerous when counter-attacking. However, a major weakness of the Panamanians is their indiscipline.

Panama leads the tournament in fouls committed (89) and red cards received (2). Panama cannot afford to have another player sent off if it expects to be victorious.

Like Panama, the U.S. expected to be in the final although the team's poor play, not poor officiating, prevented that.

For the USMNT this is a must-win game. Fans are already calling for Jurgen Klinsmann to be fired, and if the team lost this match, surely those calls would grow louder.

Despite the abysmal performance against Jamaica, Jurgen Klinsmann suggested to ussoccer.com that he would stick with a similar lineup for the Panama match. Error prone center-backs John Anthony Brooks and Ventura Alvarado are all but guaranteed to start. Klinsmann said "He [John Anthony Brooks] played an excellent game, and Ventura too" (ussoccer.com).

Klinsmann also said DaMarcus Beasley will feature in the second-half. Beasley will certainly play left-back, so he likely will come on for Chandler and then Johnson could switch to right-back.

While Klinsmann is unlikely to make many changes, look for Mix Diskerud to replace Kyle Beckerman. Beckerman was one of the worst performers against Jamaica and it looks like his international career is quickly coming to a end. Diskerud is much more mobile than Beckerman and is better offensively.

Projected Lineup:

USA - Football tactics and formations

For the U.S. to be successful, Clint Dempsey will need to be more involved in the attack. Dempsey was essentially invisible against  Jamaica and consequently the USMNT offense struggled.

Also, the defense will have to deal with set pieces much better than it did against Jamaica. The starting back four that night were all at least six feet tall, yet they conceded a goal off a header from long throw-in. The U.S. defenders cannot be beaten in the air so easily.

I honestly don't know what kind of scoreline to expect. This Gold Cup has featured shocking referee decisions, but hopefully the officials will not decide the outcome of this match.