Honduras v Panama: a meeting between friends

Honduras head coach Jorge Luis Pinto (front) inspects the Gillette Stadium field in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on July 9, 2015, in Boston. (Photo: Mexsport)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – They stood on the field, in the middle of an empty stadium the day before a pivotal CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A showdown.

For a few brief moments, Jorge Luis Pinto and Hernan Dario Gomez – the head coaches of Honduras and Panama, respectively -- hugged and laughed, posing for a few photos.

It was the moment of tranquility between friends at Gillette Stadium.

“It’s true we know each other well, but more than Pinto and Hernan Dario Gomez on the field is 11 players and they are the ones determining exactly what happens,” Pinto told reporters Thursday. “We each have our strategies and let’s see who implements them better. In the end, the players are the ones who make the difference.”

The relationship between Pinto and Gomez goes back to their native Colombia. Both have coached multiple games, and teams, in past Gold Cups – Pinto led Costa Rica, while Gomez was in charge of Ecuador and Guatemala.

But this will be the first time in this competition the two friends will match wits.

“I have a lot of respect, obviously, for Jorge Luis Pinto,” Gomez said. “He’s a football man. He knows a lot about football and we respect each other a lot. It will be interesting.”

Panama is currently one point ahead of Honduras after a 1-1 draw against Haiti in the first match of the tournament Thursday night in Frisco, Texas. In the nightcap of that doubleheader, Honduras fell to the United States, 2-1.

Since only the top two spots in the group guaranteed of advancing to the quarterfinals, Gomez knows a result is vital against Honduras, especially with an encounter against the United States on the horizon.

“Tomorrow (Friday) is practically a knockout game because we next have to play the United States, which is obviously everyone’s favorite in the group,” Gomez noted. “It doesn’t mean Panama can’t get a result against the United States. Panama does some very good things on the field and has some good moments, but we know tomorrow’s game is all the more important because of that.”

Pinto agrees that a win for Honduras is critical against Panama, but stopped short of calling it a “final.”

“Sometimes we take the attitude that all the games we play are finals, but in reality I’m not sure that’s always the case,” Pinto finished. “Tomorrow (Friday) is a game we need to win, but we need to win it by executing and concentrating on the game in of itself.”