A week ago, the United States Men’s National Team was in mortal danger of not qualifying for the Russia 2018 World Cup. Then, Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey led the U.S. to a six-goal frenzy to take down Honduras. Now, a win against Panama will put the Red, White & Blue into the automatic qualification zone of the top three.
Panama’s Hex run has had its ups and downs. After gaining four points in the first two rounds with a win and draw against Honduras and Mexico, respectively, Los Canaleros fell short of expectations by losing to Trinidad and Tobago.
With a possible starting XI which could include five MLSers, Los Canaleros will field a team that the U.S. knows quite well. However, former FC Dallas standout Blas Perez will be out with a hamstring injury.
The U.S. will also be in injury trouble. Already without arguably their two best players, Fabian Johnson and Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, John Brooks, Jordan Morris, and Michael Orozoco were sent home from national team duty with injuries.
Although the Americans hold the all-time record, going 11-1-4, and never losing a FIFA World Cup qualifier (5-0-1) against Panama, injuries will have a strong effect on tonight’s game, which may end the USMNT’s five-game qualifier win streak.
Bruce Arena’s starting XI will look almost identical to that from Friday’s match, with the only expected changes to be for the injured Brooks and Lletget. Expect Geoff Cameron to slide into a center back position and Graham Zusi to take up the right back. Zusi, a natural winger, exceeded expectations at right back in the January camp and earned himself this starting spot.
Coming in for Lletget will be Jermaine Jones. Jones did not play on Friday because of a yellow card accumulation suspension, but he is back and ready to play today.
Dempsey will be looking to become the USMNT’s all-time leading goal scorer tonight, and will need another hat trick to get him there. Landon Donovan, considered by many to be the greatest American ever, currently holds the record with 57 goals in 156 games, but Dempsey, who is making his case to be called the GOAT, is at 55 goals in 131 games. Although the goal totals are neck-and-neck between the two, Donovan’s 58 assists is miles ahead of Dempsey’s 17.
Another important note for this game is that Cameron, Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler, and Michael Bradley are on a yellow card. This means that if they are issued another one tonight, then they will be suspended for the next match.
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City).
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana).
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).
Goalkeepers: Jose Calderon (Real Cartagena), Jaime Penedo (Dinamo Bucharest).
Defenders: Felipe Baloy (Tauro), Erick Davis (Dunajska Streda), Fidel Escobar (Sporting Lisbon B), Adolfo Machado (Houston Dynamo), Roderick Miller (Atletico Nacional), Amir Murillo (New York Red Bulls), Luis Ovalle (Zamora), Roman Torres (Seattle Sounders), Jan Carlos Vargas (Tauro FC).
Midfielders: Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes), Armando Cooper (Toronto FC), Miguel Camargo (NYCFC), Edgar Barcenas (Tapachula), Gabriel Gomez (Atletico Bucaramanga), Amilcar Henriquez (Arabe Unido), Josiel Nunez (Plaza Amador), Alberto Quintero (Universitario), Oscar Villareal (Chorrillo FC).
Forwards: Abdiel Arroyo (Danubio), Blas Perez (Blooming), Tony Taylor (Pacos de Ferreira), Luis Tejada (Universitario), Gabriel Torres (Lausanne Sport)
How to Watch:
Match Time: 10 p.m. ET.
Venue: Estadio Rommel Fernandez — Panama City, Panama.
TV: beIN Sports, Telemundo, Universo.
Streaming: NBC UNIVERSO NOW, fuboTV.
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