With the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup launch three days away, CONCACAF.com is taking a closer look at one of the 12 participants each day until July 7, when the competition kicks off at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Today, we feature Panama.
Head Coach: Hernan Dario Gomez (Colombia)
Qualification Method: 2nd place, 2017 Copa Centroamericana
Previous Appearances: 7 (1993, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015)
Best Finish: Runner-up-2 (2005, 2013)
Record: 10W 14D 10L 47GF 43GA
Current GC All-Time Ranking: 6 out of 24
Biggest Win: 6-0 v Cuba (July 20, 2013)
All-Time Leading GC Scorer: Blas Perez (11 goals)
A perennial contender and two-time runner-up, Panama continues the quest for a first CONCACAF Gold Cup title in its seventh straight tournament appearance.
Two years ago, the Panamanians finished in third place without winning any of their six games. They posted an overall record of 0W-5D-1L, outlasting the United States in the match for third place, 3-2 on penalty kicks, following a 1-1 draw. The Canaleros had been ousted by the Americans in the previous five Gold Cups, each time by one goal or fewer.
Panama qualified for this year’s Gold Cup by going 3-1-1 to finish second in the 2017 Copa Centroamericana, conceding one goal or fewer in each of the five games (including three shutouts). The only loss (its first in 17 Copa matches) came against eventual-champion Honduras, 1-0, on matchday three.
As younger players continue to make claims for larger roles in the team, head coach Hernan Dario Gomez has no shortage of talent at his disposal.
Midfielder Gabriel Gomez could again be a key figure. The 32-year-old has competed in six Gold Cup editions and scored the game-winning goal in a famous 2-1 victory over the U.S. in 2011. His familiarity with Armando Cooper and Anibal Godoy is a genuine advantage in the Canaleros’ midfield.
While veteran forwards Blas Perez (36-years-old; team-record 11 career Gold Cup goals) and Luis Tejada (35-years-old; 10 career Gold Cup goals and 2005 MVP) were omitted from the roster, 22-year-old Abdiel Arroyo appears ready for the job. He had a goal and an assist in the 2017 Copa Centroamericana, and has netted in CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Not to be forgotten on the offensive end are forwards Gabriel Torres (28), who was the joint-top scorer in the 2013 Gold Cup (five goals) and Ismael Diaz (20), a rising star with Portugal’s Porto.
Remarkably, Panama has conceded one goal or fewer in 15 of its last 16 Gold Cup encounters. That level of excellence is expected to continue with Eric Davis, Roderick Miller and Fidel Escobar each earning call-ups.
Goalkeeper Jose Calderon won the Golden Glove award at the 2017 Copa Centroamericana and should be the starter in place of Jaime Penedo, who was not selected after appearing in six Gold Cups.
If Gomez gets the formula right, there would be no better way for this golden group to be rewarded than with lifting the trophy at Levi’s Stadium.