After a thrilling and historic 6-0 win against Honduras last Friday the US is back at it again. The red, white and blue face off against the Panamanians in hot and humid Panama City, Panama.
Here is everything you need to know about match day four of the ten-match hexagonal:
Where: Estadio Rommel Fernandez
When: 8:00 pm MT
How to watch: beINSPORTS
Weather at kickoff: Temperature of 91 degrees with 62% humidity
Current hexagonal rankings
After Friday nights victory the US in a much better place then they were heading into this week. Now currently sitting in 4th place out of 6 with 3 points, the US would participate in the World Cup play-in game against the winner of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) if the results hold as is. With a win against Panama, the US would be guaranteed at least the 3rd spot in the rankings heading into the international break.
Panama currently occupies the 3rd spot (4 points) that the US is gunning for. They had some really positive early results with a win at Honduras last November 11th, and a draw at home against Mexico a few days later on November 15th. Last Friday night while the US was celebrating a win of their own, Panama dropped all 3 points to the small island of Trinidad & Tobago with a 1-0 defeat.
This game is critical for the US. According to Opta Stats, a win for the US would give it an 85% of qualifying for Russia in 2018. A loss drops our chances of qualifying to 50%. With a draw we will maintain a 65% chance of qualification. Still a lot to play for in this one.
All time series
To say that Panama has some unfinished business with the US is an understatement. The last time these two nations squared off in World Cup qualifying it was the final night of qualification for Brazil World Cup 2014. Panama was on their way to picking up all 3 points on a hot night in Panama. Leading the US 2-1 in stoppage time, they needed only to see the final minutes out and they would finish 4th. This would have set up a play-in-game against New Zealand with a berth into the World Cup on the line. In dramatic fashion, both Aron Johannssen and Graham Zusi would each score to see the US win at the death, 3-2. Zusi would go on to find stardom in Mexico as they affectionately came to know his as “San Zusi.” The patron saint of saving Mexico’s World Cup ass.
Panama has never qualified for a World Cup and that night was the closest they have ever come. Because of the loss, Mexico saw itself finish 4th, defeat New Zealand, and eek into the World Cup.
With all of that being said, the US has dominated Panama with an all time record of 11-1-4 across all matches, a 5-0-1 record in World Cup qualifying. Even more impressive, the US hasn’t lost a WCQ in Panama, with a record of 2-0-1 all time.
Players to watch
USA - Tim Howard, Goalkeeper: The US defense is facing a myriad of injuries. John Brooks and Geoff Cameron both left Friday’s match with injuries. Brooks, after the game, was dismissed from the squad as he is battling a sinus infection. Likewise, Deandre Yedlin and Timmy Chandler didn’t even make the squad as they both battle injuries as well.
With a less than preferred starting back four, a lot of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Tim Howard to direct traffic, keep the defense organized, and erase any mistakes that are sure to happen in a hot and hostile environment like Panama. Tim will need to come up big to keep the US in the game and keep a group who has played very little together intact.
Panama: Anibal Godoy, Midfielder: Godoy plays at the center of the San Jose Earthquakes midfield. He is very familiar with the MLS contingent of players that Bruce Arena will field, and will bring a level of calm and comfortability to the Panama side. Godoy will be asked to protect Panama’s backline from the United States attacks, as well as assist in sparking some offense of their own.
RSL Soapbox’s Prediction
The US will be expecting a victory, and rightly so. That being said, they will play a little more conservative as they adjust to the sweltering heat, the humidity, and the raucous crowds. The US will want to stay compact and remain patient. They will take the chances as they come, but getting a shutout will be top priority. With all that said, expect the US to come out on top 2-0 and see themselves back above the redline in qualification.