Panama turns to youthful talent for U.S. clash
Panama head coach Hernan Dario Gomez (left) and midfielder Gabriel Gomez at a pre-Gold Cup press conference on July 7, 2017, in Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Hernan Dario Gomez isn’t quite ready to call it a youth movement, but it is clear that the Panama head coach has chosen the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup as an opportunity to showcase some of the more talented younger players in his system.

Veteran forwards like Blas Perez (team-record 11 Gold Cup goals) and Luis Tejada (10 Gold Cup goals) were not selected, replaced by 23-year-old Abdiel Arroyo and 20-year-old Ismael Diaz, who will be in the starting XI for the Group B opener against the United States on Saturday afternoon at Nissan Stadium.

The squad also includes 21-year-old defender Michael Murillo (New York Red Bulls), 24-year-old Miguel Camargo (New York City FC), 22-year-old defender Juan Carlos Vargas (Tauro) and 23-year-old defender Roberto Chen (Arabe Unido). Gomez confirmed all four will be in his starting lineup against Bruce Arena’s United States squad.

“Football is more than just young and senior players,” Gomez said.  “For this opportunity, we brought a group of young players who want to get experience.  What is important from this group is they are really excited and willing to play and give their best in this tournament.”

Helping these younger players are the veterans in what he calls a balanced roster, including Atletico Bucaramanga midfielder Gabriel Gomez, who is set to play in his seventh Gold Cup.

“I see a very humble and very united team,” Gabriel Gomez said. “It’s very balanced because it’s a combination of senior players who have already played many games before and this group. We are in very good shape for this tournament. As a senior player, the only thing I can do is I try to push them hard so they can work hard in order to get good results in this tournament.”