Panama's Roman Torres (pictured), celebrates after scoring against Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals on July 22, 2015, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo: Mexsport)
CHESTER, Pennsylvania -- Contrary to popular belief, not all national team training sessions slog on endlessly in an arduous fashion.
There are allowances – sometimes, at least -- for fun and games in order to relieve pressure, so that players can enter into the next game with a clear mind.
For example, take what Panama did Friday on the exquisitely maintained fields adjacent to PPL Park, site of the CONCACAF Gold Cup’s match for third place
The Canaleros didn't just kick the ball around. They took part in kick ball, a popular game played mostly by kids, although adults have been known to enjoy it in ever-increasing numbers as well.
Panama head coach Hernan Dario Gomez said he felt it was important to add a light touch at the conclusion of practice.
It certainly appeared the players were appreciative of the deviation from the usual routine.
"We needed a little bit of happiness, a little bit of joy in our ranks," Gomez remarked.
The 59-year-old Colombian then cited a list of vital games that Panama came close agonizingly to winning over the past few years, only not to obtain the desired result.
"Panama, if you remember, was in the last Gold Cup final," he noted in reference to a 1-0 loss to the U.S. in 2013. "Panama was two minutes away from going on to the last playoff to get to the [2014 World Cup]. Panama was just a couple of minutes from getting to the UNCAF championship game last fall and fell short after being called for a penalty.
"The players see these things and they weigh on them. At the same, I want to motivate my team. I want them to enjoy the Gold Cup.”
A win over the five-time champion would certainly go a long way in making that happen.