The U.S. men’s national team’s trip to Panama for Sunday’s World Cup qualifier will carry some extra significance for both sides on top of the three points on offer. That’s because the match falls on the anniversary of the USMNT’s elimination from the 2018 FIFA World Cup and Panama’s first-ever World Cup qualification, which came as a direct result.
USA’s 2-1 loss in Trinidad on Oct. 10, 2017, coupled with Panama’s last-gasp home win over Costa Rica (an 88th-minute winner by Roman Torres), permanently marked the soccer history of both nations in the previous World Cup cycle. For that reason there should be a celebratory atmosphere at the sold-out Estadio Rommel Fernandez as Panama seeks its first-ever win against the USA in a World Cup qualifier.
The Americans, ranked No. 13 in the world, are 6-0-2 all time in qualifiers against No. 68-ranked Panama and they head to Panama City riding a stream of two convincing qualifying wins that have coincided with the emergence of 18-year-old striker Ricardo Pepi. He started both those matches — victories over Honduras (4-1) and Jamaica (2-0) — and Pepi had a hand in all six goals, scoring three of them. Pepi came off with 20 minutes left against Jamaica and is likely to get the start again in Panama as U.S. men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter rides the hot hand to first-place in the standings.
WATCH: Panama vs. USMNT on fuboTV (free 7-day trial)
Panama is coming off a 1-0 loss in El Salvador on Thursday in a match played in difficult weather and field conditions. It was only the Canaleros’ first loss in this qualifying cycle (1-1-2, 5 points), but it still remains in fourth place. The top three teams earn automatic berths and the fourth-place team advances to a World Cup playoff.
Sporting News will be watching the event live, providing scoring updates, commentary and match highlights as they’re available.
USA vs. Panama score
USA vs. Panama live updates, highlights from World Cup qualifier
Standings and results: Updated World Cup qualifying table
(All times Eastern)
5:39 p.m.: Filling up:
5:05 p.m.: USMNT in the white. Assuming Panama in the red:
4:31 p.m.: The USMNT takes an undefeated record into the Rommel Fernandez.
4:23 p.m.: American Outlaws enjoying Panama:
4:04 p.m.: Fans already making their way inside the stadium:
How to watch Panama vs. USA
The USMNT’s fifth World Cup qualifier will be broadcast in Spanish on Universo, which also streams on fuboTV, which is available on a free 7-day trial.
New users can sign up for a free seven-day trial of the live sports streaming service, which can be accessed via iOS, Android, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV as well as on a web browser.
The English-language broadcast will be carried by Paramount+.
USA vs. Panama lineups
Matt Turner, Walker Zimmerman, Yunus Musah and Paul Arriola are the only repeat starters as U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter makes wholesale changes to the side. The USMNT is without Weston McKennie, Antonee Robinson and Zack Steffen, who all headed straight to Columbus, Ohio in preparation for the third and final World Cup qualifier to be played in October on Wednesday against Costa Rica. McKennie is resting a sore quad, while Robinson and Steffen will sit out the trip to Panama to avoid UK travel restrictions which would have required an extended quarantine after travel to that country.
DECOURCY: Pepi was the one dual national the USMNT had to have
USA starting lineup (4-3-3, left to right): 1-Matt Turner-GK — 21-George Bello, 18-Mark McKenzie, 3-Walker Zimmerman (c), 5-Shaq Moore — 6-Yunus Musah, 23-Kellyn Acosta, 17-Sebastian Lletget — 20-Tim Weah, 9-Gyasi Zardes, 7-Paul Arriola,
USA subs: 13-Sean Johnson-GK, 2-Sergino Dest, 22-DeAndre Yedlin, 12-Miles Robinson, 15-Chris Richards, 4-Tyler Adams, 8-Gianluca Busio, 14-Luca de la Torre, 10-Cristian Roldan, 19-Matthew Hoppe, 16-Ricardo Pepi, 11-Brenden Aaronson
Panama head coach Thomas Christiansen brought in eight new players into the October squad compared to the callups he made for the September qualifiers. The notable absences are regular September starters Andres Andrade (Arminia Bielefeld / Germany), Adalberto Carrasquilla (Houston Dynamo / USA) and familiar name Cecilio Waterman (Everton / Chile).
As far as changes from the lineup that lost 1-0 on Thursday to El Salvador, wide midfielder Jose Luis Rodriguez is replaced by former Columbus Crew wide mid Cristian Martinez, while center mid Abdiel Ayarza is out, with the talented Edgar Barcenas likely moving into midfield. Forward Freddy Gondola is a debutant, pairing with Rolando Blackburn.
Panama starting lineup (4-4-2, left to right): 1-Luis Mejia-GK — 15-Eric Davis, 3-Harold Cummings, 4-Fidel Escobar, 23-Michael Amir Murillo — 8-Cristian Martinez, 20-Anibal Godoy, 11-Armando Cooper, 10-Edgar Barcenas, 19-Alberto Quintero — 17-Freddy Gondola, 14-Rolando Blackburn
Panama subs: 22-Orlando Mosquera-GK, 12-Jose Calderon-GK, 13-Jiovany Ramos, Jorge Gutierrez, 6-Oscar Linton, 2-Cesar Blackman, 5-Abdiel Ayarza, 21-Cesar Yanis, Eduardo Guerrero, 7-Jose Luis Rodriguez, Ismael Diaz, 18-Jair Catuy, 16-Alfredo Stephens, 9-Gaby Torres, Abdiel Arroyo
USA vs. Panama odds, prediction
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
Pick: Panama +0.75 Asian Handicap (-125)
A total of 14 out of 19 matches in official competitions between these two teams have been decided by one goal or fewer. Four of the five results that were more lopsided happened to be U.S. home matches during World Cup qualifying. Berhalter teed this one up for the betting crowd:
“They don’t let up a lot of chances,” Berhalter told media in Panama. “They have the lowest expected goals [against] of the first four games. We’re second lowest. [They’re a] strong defensive team, heavy crossing team. The one outlier game was the last game, and I don’t know if you saw the field conditions and what they were dealing with, it was a very difficult game to play. It was monsoon-type rains, field was flooded. It was an abnormal game. It’s a good team. It’s a very physically strong team. They’ll be very aggressive in duels, they’re very good attacking in the penalty box.”
The Panama +0.75 Asian Handicap refunds half the bet if Panama loses by a goal. A draw or a Panama victory is a winning bet.
Prediction: Panama 1, USA 1
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