ATLANTA – Through three Group Stage games and the first 45 minutes of a quarterfinal match, Gabriel Torres accounted for all five of Panama’s goals in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
That changed in the second half Saturday as three different players struck during a four-goal explosion that resulted in the largest scoring output ever in the quarterfinals as Panama defeated Cuba, 6-1, at the Georgia Dome.
“It’s not easy to score six goals,” Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes said. “The team could have scored another one, but there are things that we must improve because in some moments of the game, we had too much overconfidence. We have to be serious and the team has to demonstrate they are superior. It was a good game and they showed it.”
Perhaps, most importantly for Panama, Blas Perez struck for a second-half brace. The veteran forward now has goals in three different Gold Cup quarterfinals, also scoring against the United States in 2007 and 2009.
“As a forward, you always want to be accompanied with goals,” Dely Valdes said. “He got two today, but Blas always shines because of the work he does on the field. We’ve seen that today. We saw today the Blas of always, working very well on the field.”
Dely Valdes also saw the continued output by Torres, who is now tied with American Chris Wondolowski atop the Gold Cup scoring list with five goals.
“Gabriel’s participation in the tournament has been good,” Dely Valdes said. “Not just today, but in general. He’s got to keep his level and for that he has to keep working. I think he’s doing it. We have to congratulate him because from the first moment he had to play for us in the Gold Cup, you could see he was working hard.”
Now, Panama advances to the semifinals for the third time and will meet a Mexican team it defeated, 2-1, in the opening game of the Group Stage. Dely Valdes, though, doesn’t think his team can take anything from that encounter.
“It’s not going to look like that game on July 7,” he said. “In that one we surprised them a lot. Now, it’s going to be different. Games tend to be different when you face a team a team twice in a short period of time. It’s going to be much more complicated than we faced them on July 7.”
A victory over El Tri would send Panama into its second-ever final and it’s possible the Panamanians will meet up with the United States, which takes on El Salvador in a quarterfinal Sunday in Baltimore.
The Americans have knocked Panama out of the last four Gold Cups, including a victory on penalty kicks in the 2005 final.
“We’ve faced the U.S. in previous Gold Cups. We’ve won and we’ve lost,” Dely Valdes said. “I was satisfied with the result. I even enjoyed the performance of the team when we lost. There’s no guarantees on what is going to happen.”