Panama prepares for Gold Cup, builds for future

Panama's Gabriel Torres (red jersey) was the joint-top scorer in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup with five goals. (Photo: Mexsport)

PANAMA CITY, Panama – The goal for Panama is not much different than the other teams competing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Head coach Hernan Dario Gomez, however, stopped short of saying his team would win the tournament.

“I want to give a victory to Panama, but in a year that is not achieved, hopefully you well in the Gold Cup,” he told reporters after the team’s final practice at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez before departing for the United States.

The Colombian was handed the managerial reins on February 15, 2014, and is now guiding a side that has experienced much success in the competition. Two years ago, it dropped a narrow 1-0 decision to the U.S. in the final.

“It is difficult to say how we are or how we are doing because football players have many ups and downs now and it is difficult to give a clear idea of this,” commented Gomez.

All but three players on Panama’s 23-man roster have been training together in advance of the tournament. The squad will be joined by a trio of Major League Soccer-based players goalkeeper Jamie Penedo (LA Galaxy), as well as forwards Blas Perez (FC Dallas) and Gabriel Torres (Colorado Rapids).

Additionally, under Gomez, a few players are taking on new or different roles. Chorrillo FC midfielder Alfredo Stephens has been working out at right back, while Plaza Amador midfielder Valentin Pimentel is getting a look at right wing.

“We are not inventing anything, nor rehearsing,” Gomez remarked. “These players that we brought from the LPF (Panamanian Football League) are important. We’ve been watching them for a year.”

On Saturday, Panama lost 1-0 against the under-22 national team in a scrimmage consisting of two, 35-minute periods. Despite the result, Gomez said he saw things that he liked.

“Pimentel gave us good things,” the 59-year-old finished. “[Adolfo] Machado showed that as central he is much better than a lateral.

“Coaches can never be fully satisfied. They always have to be dissatisfied. The defeat tells me nothing because it was a scrimmage, thinking how to get better. I am satisfied with the players who I have with me, but we have to give a lot, much more in order to go to a World Cup.”