With both teams already qualified for the quarter-finals of the 2019 Gold Cup, it is top spot in Group D that is on the line when the United States take on Panama at the Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas on Wednesday (9pm ET, live on FS1 / Unimas).
These teams have accumulated six points apiece from their opening two matches, having both seen off Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. But the United States hold a key advantage coming into their meeting as they are six goals better off in terms of goal difference.
That means that a draw would be enough for the USMNT to go through to the last eight as group winners and position themselves in the bottom half of the draw. Doing so would mean that they could only face the favorites Mexico in the final, if both teams progressed that far, and would also most likely avoid meeting third-favorites Costa Rica until that stage.
The goal difference that has provided them with that cushion was accumulated over the course of thrashings of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. The former were seen off 4-0 in their opening match of the tournament. They went two goals better against the latter on Saturday, converting a one-goal lead into the interval into a 6-0 triumph at the final whistle.
Gregg Berhalter put out the same starting XI for a second match in a row. After some back and forth exchanges in the early going, his side started to gain a degree of control. Aaron Long headed them into the lead late into the first half, and they really got going after the hour mark, as two goals from Gyasi Zardes, single strikes from Christan Pulisic and Paul Arriola, and then Long’s second of the night saw them record a very comfortable victory.
“What we are seeing is the team getting confident. We are getting fit and that’s important,” Berhalter said afterwards. “We still know there’s a lot we can improve on, and we want to keep progressing as this tournament goes on.”
After easing themselves into the tournament with a couple of matches against teams ranked outside the top 100 in the world by the ELO rankings system, things will start getting a bit more difficult from now on. Next opponents Panama are ranked 57th by that measure, 22 places behind the USA. Unlike America, they qualified for last summer’s World Cup.
Panama didn’t make quite such light work of the other Group D teams but were still able to record two victories: 2-0 against Trinidad and Tobago and 4-2 against Guyana. Although their approach appears to have become slightly less defensive and abrasive since former national team striker Julio Dely Valdes took charge earlier this year, their primary focus on Wednesday will be on clogging up central areas and defending deep up against their area.
Just how awkward they have previously proved to Team USA is made clear by their recent Gold Cup meetings. The squads drew 1-1 in the group stages of both the 2017 and 2015 editions, while in that latter tournament they did so again in the third-place playoff, with Panama thereafter emerging as 3-2 winners on penalties.
Discounting the 3-0 win for the US in a friendly earlier this year that was played with only locally-based players, Panama have been able to keep the large majority of their meetings very close. The US have only twice won by more than a single goal over their last eight encounters and have only done so on three occasions over the course of their last 14.
There is, though, little in Panama’s results over the last year to suggest they are capable of getting the win that would land the US in the tougher half of the draw. In the 15 matches they have played over the last 12 months, their record reads: two wins, two draws and 11 defeats. That means they were winless in 13 prior to the Gold Cup. Goals have been particularly hard to come by. Before this tournament, they had scored just six in 13.
Our Preview’s USA vs Panama Picks & Betting Predictions Verdict
Given those factors, backing a couple of correct score plays for one-goal US victories with the American oddsmakers looks a solid option:
- Bet on United States to win 1-0 @ +500 and also USA to win 2-1 @ +700, both bets with Bovada Sportsbook.