Concacaf World Cup Qualifying continues today with USA vs Panama! It’s the second-to-last match, and all three auto-qualifying spots are up for grabs! The USMNT is in a prime position to qualify for the World Cup now; Qatar is very much within reach. That being said, the flip side could also be just as prevalent should things not go their way. That is why USA vs Panama is the most important match for this group of young USMNT players and their coaches.
USA vs Panama
Of the three matches in this final window of World Cup qualifying, USA vs Panama was seen as the most winnable game for the USMNT. The USA already went down the Azteca, where they rarely get positive results in World Cup qualifying and drew Mexico 0-0. Now they come home, to Orlando Florida with a huge opportunity to exorcise the demons of 2017 by potentially qualifying for the 2022 World Cup at their final home match in the qualifying cycle.
The final home match
Tonight at 7 pm the USMNT will take the field at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium. It will be the last opportunity to gain home points in the final Concacaf qualifiers. The team is not at full strength. DeAndre Yedlin and Timothy Weah are out due to yellow card suspension.
Yedlin’s loss meant that the USA had to call in another right-back, as Reggie Cannon who was called in is also out due to COVID protocols. That right back is Shaq Moore who joined the group in Florida. He’ll be starting as the only right-back for the USMNT. Finding a replacement for Weah is interesting as well. Will starlet Giovani Reyna dazzle out on the right-wing? Reyna could be more useful in the middle of the park with his link-up abilities. Will that leave Gregg Berhalter to pick one of three MLS stars of Paul Arriola, Christian Roldan, or Jordan Morris? No matter who is on the pitch for the USMNT, they’ll need to give their all.
The USMNT needs to get three points on their final home match. While there is still one more game after today’s, it’s on the road at Costa Rica where the USA has never won a World Cup Qualifier. Getting three points helps the USA’s position so much in the standings, as Panama is on their heels to move up the table.
A relentless and organized Panama
Panama has been one of the surprises of the octagonal. They are a relentless group that will always push for the win. Unfortunately for them, they fell from the fourth-place playoff spot to fifth after a home draw against Honduras last Thursday. This makes the USA vs Panama matchup even more important for both sides.
Panama dropping points on Thursday allowed the USA and Mexico to have a little breathing room in the standings. Four points now separate the USA, Mexico, and Panama. It’s up to the USMNT to widen that gap today, but it will be no walk in the park for them to do so.
Panama has played with an intensity and a relentless through all of the octagonal qualifiers for Qatar 2022. It has allowed them to punch above their weight from time to time. Their never say die attitude makes them great in important game situations; it honestly would make them great in a tournament like the World Cup. If they come out against the USMNT with that intensity and stay in the game the longer the clock counts up, then they could have an opportunity to get needed points. USA vs Panama is going to be a good match for sure!
Scenario: Win and in?
USA vs Panama is an important match for both teams, but it could be a clear indicator if the USMNT make the World Cup or not. The scenarios are clear for the USA, a win coupled with Costa Rica dropping points, or the USA draw with a Costa Rica loss and the USMNT are on their way to Qatar!
While the scenario isn’t an out-and-out win and in for the USMNT, the timing of the matches could make it that way in the USA vs Panama match. Costa Rica host Honduras at 5 pm today. This means that the result of that match will be final when the USMNT takes the field. If the result is a Costa Rica draw or loss, then the USA knows what they need to do. WIN!
There has been a lot of doom-and-gloom following the USMNT since 2017. Many fans have felt the pain of not qualifying over and over throughout this qualification cycle. It’s now up to the new wave of USMNT to step up and bring the USA back to the World Cup. They have the talent to do it, and in USA vs Panama have the chance to celebrate in front of their home fans as a team that qualified. Let’s see if they can do it tonight!
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Mandatory Credit: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire