Panama vs. US Soccer Tonight
Wednesday, June 08 2005 @ 12:58 PM EDT
Contributed by: Anonymous
U.S. Soccer Team Plays Last-Place Panama By RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer Wed Jun 8, 8:10 AM ET
PANAMA CITY, Panama - Just as Panama sits narrowly between the Atlantic and Pacific, the U.S. soccer team is on a dividing line — between confidence and overconfidence. The final round of World Cup qualifying reaches the halfway mark Wednesday night, and a victory over Panama would move the United States close to a fifth straight World Cup appearance.
Following Saturday's 3-0 win over Costa Rica in Salt Lake City, the U.S. team (3-1) has nine points, one behind first-place Mexico (3-0-1) but five points ahead of Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago and Costa Rica (all 1-2-1).
A victory over last-place Panama (0-2-2) would give the Americans 12 points in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region. They would be in commanding position to claim one of the region's three berths in next year's tournament, especially with home games remaining against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago.
"If we're overconfident, we're completely stupid," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said Tuesday.
Four years ago the U.S. team started 4-0-1 before losing consecutive games to Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica.
"We had 13 points after five games, and we thought we were God's gift to the world," Landon Donovan said. "Were aware of that, and were more experienced this time."
While the United States is tied for 10th in the FIFA world rankings and Panama is 95th, the Central Americans have been tough at Estadio Rommel Fernandez, where the lighting is poor and the field can be muddy, especially during the frequent evening thunderstorms.
In its previous two home games in the final round, Panama played a 0-0 tie against Guatemala and a 1-1 tie against Mexico, getting a tying goal on Luis Tejada's scissors kick in the 74th minute. The Panamanians outplayed the Americans in a 1-1 tie last September, then lost 6-0 at Washington the following month.
Panama is coming off a 2-0 defeat Saturday at Trinidad and Tobago and a long trip home. The team went to Miami and got stuck there before reaching Panama City on Monday.
"The dream is still there," midfielder Julio Medina said. "We're facing a real tough game, but the Americans are not invincible."
When the United States played in Panama last year, much of the field turned to mud during a second-half downpour. Cobi Jones scored the tying goal in second-half injury time, getting the ball when Donovan's shot attempt on the soggy surface spun toward him instead of the goal.
"That's the worst I've played in," Donovan said. "It's a different game. It's not about finesse and skill, it's just about being rugged and rolling up your sleeves and who's going to win the most, I guess, confrontations on the field. That's unfortunate for us, but they have to deal with it, too."
Brian McBride said rain would slow the pace of the game.
"Most likely it will probably get a little more sloppy, because the ball's going to have to be in the air a lot more," he said.
Notes:@ Arena said D Oguchi Onyewu, still recovering from a knee injury, probably won't play. ... Mexico hosts Trinidad and Tobago, and Costa Rica is at home against Guatemala in other CONCACAF qualifiers.