Preview: USA vs. Panama – prediction, team news, lineups – Sports Mole

Sports Mole previews Sunday’s World Cup Qualifying – North Central America clash between USA and Panama, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

The USA can move a step closer to qualification for World Cup 2022 on Sunday when they host Panama at Exploria Stadium in Orlando.

Los Canaleros are now sitting fifth in the Octagon following a 1-1 tie against Honduras, while the Americans played to a goalless draw with Mexico as they remain in second place.

Match preview

The United States (USA) defender Antonee Robinson (5) celebrates his goal with teammates during a CONCACAF FIFA World Cup Qualifier soccer match against the El Salvador at Field on January 27, 2022© Reuters

With two matches remaining, Gregg Berhalter and his team find themselves in a solid position to qualify for Qatar.

There is a possibility that this team could book their place in the World Cup on Sunday if they win and Costa Rica fail to claim three points at home to Honduras.

The US had some glorious opportunities to hand the Mexicans a loss at the Azteca but could not find that decisive breakthrough on Thursday.

It seemed as though this group were missing a solid midfield presence versus El Tri, who limited them to 37% possession in what at times looked like a game of keep away.

Even without some key figures missing because to injury, The Yanks should still see more of the ball on Sunday when they face a team in Panama who tend to hang back and wait for an opportunity to pounce.

Stars and Stripes have not been gracious hosts to opposing teams over the past few years, unbeaten in their previous 20 home matches played on American soil.

Defending has been one of the most vital attributes of this side lately, collecting four clean sheets in their previous five games across all competitions, failing to allow a shot on target versus El Salvador and Honduras.

Panama players celebrate scoring against Qatar on July 13, 2021© Reuters

After sitting in a comfortable top-four position heading into the final qualification window, Panama now find themselves on the outside of the World Cup picture, a point back of Costa Rica for a place in the inter-confederation playoffs.

They got the start they wanted on Thursday, taking the lead after 23 minutes, but as has been the case on a few occasions in the Octagon, the Panamanians became complacent and paid the price, and are now a point behind Costa Rica for a playoff berth.

Los Canaleros have now dropped six points from a winning position in this qualifying phase as their World Cup fate is no longer in their hands.

Heading into the Octagon, many believed that this squad were in a state of transition and development, however manager Thomas Christiansen has instilled a philosophy that his players have bought into, which has enabled them to compete hard against the other sides in this region.

Their road matches have been there for the taking, but unfortunately, they have struggled with their finishing in the final third, failing to score in three of their away games in this final round of qualification.

Panama have a solid structure in place when they line up to play, and these players are not afraid to be physical, committing their share of fouls in an effort to break up the momentum that opposing teams can gain in transition.

Christiansen will be looking for his side to put on a similar display to the one they put forward in their previous meeting against the US in October when they did not allow a single shot on target in a 1-0 victory.

USA World Cup Qualifying – North Central America form:

USA form (all competitions):

Panama World Cup Qualifying – North Central America form:

Panama form (all competitions):

Team News

United States defender Walker Zimmerman (3) reacts after scoring against Honduras during a CONCACAF FIFA World Cup Qualifier soccer match at Allianz Field on February 2, 2022© Reuters

In their previous encounter Stars and Stripes seemed to miss the presence of Weston McKennie in the middle of the field as the Juventus man is still recovering from a foot fracture, while Sergino Dest is unavailable with a hamstring issue and Man City backup keeper Zack Steffen will likely get to start again this weekend in place of Matt Turner, who is dealing with an ankle problem.

Jordan Pefok missed a glorious scoring opportunity in the second half to give The Yanks the lead on Thursday, while Christian Pulisic made his 21st appearance for the senior side in World Cup qualifying affairs, drawing even with former American internationals John Harkes, Eddie Lewis and Oguchi Onyewu in that department.

Tyler Adams wore the captain’s armband for the eighth time in his career, Ricardo Pepi collected his 10th international cap, while Sean Johnson, Reggie Cannon and Gianluca Busio did not dress against Mexico.

Rolando Blackburn scored his fourth goal for Panama in the Octagon in their draw versus Honduras, with Fidel Escobar picking up an assist, while the last international goal scored by Nashville SC midfielder Anibal Godoy came in their previous meeting against the Americans, which ended up being the only tally of that match.

There were three new faces in the Panamanian starting 11 against the Hondurans as Andres Andrade and Jorge Gutierrez replaced Roderick Miller and Eric Davis on defence, while Jose Luis Rodriguez took the place of Cesar Yanis.

Cecilio Waterman, who came on as a substitute in their previous fixture, is their leading goalscorer in this World Cup qualifying cycle with seven strikes, while Gabriel Torres is tied with Blackburn, having tallied four times since they began the qualification campaign.

USA possible starting lineup:

Steffen; A. Robinson, Long, Zimmerman, Sands; Acosta, de la Torre, Musah; Pulisic, Pepi, Weah

Panama possible starting lineup:

Mejia; Murillo, Escobar, Andrade, Cummings; Carrasquilla, Godoy; Yanis, Gondola, Waterman; Blackburn

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We say: USA 2-0 Panama

The US have only lost twice at home to Panama in their entire history, but we do not anticipate them dropping a third this weekend.

Los Canaleros desperately need points, which could leave them exposed to a few counters, and we do not expect this American team to miss those chances like they did earlier this week in Mexico.

Top tip

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