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US Gold Cup Semi-Finals: USA vs. Panama [4:00 PM]

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Normally I don't create match threads for games outside of the Portland Timbers, but I suppose this could be an exception on account that there's not much news coming out of the Timbers camp today and that tonight's Semi-Final match up is important for two reasons:

  1. Beating Panama ensures the US a place in the finals.
  2. Beating Panama would go a long way in establishing confidence against a much stronger Mexican team.

So, without further adieu, here's the match thread for tonight's national team game:

Assessing Our Team

Assuming you're not from Panama that is...

The US Men's National Team got off to a rocky start in the tournament. Honestly, the group stages were probably some of the worst performances by the USMNT that I've seen in years (maybe since the 2006 World Cup). An uninspiring win against Canada, a loss to Panama and a squeaker against Guadeloupe. Each performance seemed destined to end the American's pathetic run at any point. Needless to say, I wasn't hopeful of the guys winning against Jamaica.

When the quarter finals finally came I thought the speed Jamaica had would completely trump anything the US had shown prior. Instead what I saw was an almost complete reversal of fortunes for the beleaguered national side. While the game wasn't a scoring blow out, there was very few times when the USMNT wasn't pressuring to get another goal and overall I came away far more impressed and hopeful than at any other time during the actual tournament. Perhaps the guys just needed time to gel again.

Looking ahead to tonight's game I'm feeling optimistic that the national team won't allow Panama to get a couple of lucky goals like they did previously and, instead, will want to show the region that the they are, in fact, the better of the two teams.

In pulling off a win tonight, the USMNT will require the fantastic services of Clint Dempsey and Sacha Kljestan once again, the latter of which was a player I wasn't too thrilled about being on the team based on past unfortunate experiences with the team. I was very happy to be proven wrong during the last game. Both players played phenomenally with their attacking mindsets and it'll be important to keep that same energy going in tonight's game.

Unfortunately, one key player will be missing tonight: Joze Altidore. If you watched the Jamaica game you'll remember he had to come off due to an injury sustained during the run of play. As such he is not scheduled to play. Instead, I expect to see Juan Agudelo get the start instead with perhaps a 4-5-1 formation. Who knows we may even see Freddy Adu in tonight's game!

Assessing the Enemy

I don't know too much about the Panamanian side aside from what I saw when they played against the US. Still, I remember what I saw and, while I wouldn't call them technically skilled, they're scrappy. They're not going for a beautiful win or epic goals. Instead they'll try and draw penalty kicks and free kicks close in and work through a skirmish to knock one back in the net.

The Panamanians also have the advantage of know that they can beat the USA. While I'm sure the US wants some revenge, the Panamanian side will certainly have a mentality advantage heading into the game, especially with another victory under their belt from this past Sunday.

That said, from what I've read, Panama's bench isn't terribly deep in skill and their starters played 120 minutes only a few days ago. This could create serious problems for a team that, on paper, is already way behind the US national team.

Final Thoughts

Tonight's game will largely depend on what kind of American side shows up. It's easy to say that the US will win based on stats, or where their players come from, etc. but the reality of it is that the USMNT has a nasty habit of losing when they're considered the better team. They thrive as underdogs and falter as anything else. It's not really becoming of a team that wishes to someday be a world soccer power, but it is what it is. The US is definitely considered to be the better team tonight so, really, we can't say what the end result will be.

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Tonight's game is on Fox Soccer Channel at 4:00 PM. You should also be able to catch a free stream via CONCACAF's online streaming service (which is pretty good).