U.S. ready to meet familiar foe Panama once again

USA defender Matt Besler (pictured) speaks to the media about the CONCACAF Gold Cup at a training session on July 6, 2017, in Nashville, Tennessee.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – There will be no secrets when the United States faces Panama in the Group B opener for each in the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Saturday at Nissan Stadium.

“They’re a very familiar opponent.  It feels like we see them every couple of months,” United States defender Graham Zusi said after training Thursday.  “They’ll have a few new guys in who weren’t in the qualifiers and vice versa.  They’re a dangerous team.  They counter pretty well and their set pieces are very dangerous as well.  It’s a game we’ll have to be locked in for a full 90 minutes.  I think if we do that we’ll get the result we want.”

Indeed, there is quite a history between the two teams which last met in the fifth round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification in March, a 1-1 draw in Panama City.  They also were drawn together in the group stage of the 2016 CONCACAF Gold Cup, another 1-1 draw in Kansas City.  That was also the result in the third place game before Panama prevailed on penalty kicks.

They will meet again in October in another World Cup qualifier.

“Panama is an extremely tough opponent, especially right out of the gate,” said U.S. defender Matt Besler said.  “We know it’s going to be a tough game.  We seem to have played them a lot in recent years.  Every single game has been different, but they’ve all been very tough, physical battles and that’s what we expect again on Saturday.”

While Zusi and Besler have experienced the Gold Cup previously, this is the first time around for 22-year-old midfielder Paul Arriola, who plays for Club Tijuana in Liga MX.

“I think for us, especially the younger guys, it’s a great opportunity to step on the biggest stage we can be on now and be able to show that the younger guys can step up and make an impact,” he finished.  “That’s what everyone is looking for and hoping for.  I think that’s what we’re expected to do, not just from everyone outside of the team in the (U.S. Soccer) Federation, but inside as well.”


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