Panama’s Gomez: Trinidad is a strong opponent

Panama head coach Hernan Dario Gomez (pictured) met with the press on July 18, 2015, in East Rutherford, New Jersey, a day before his team's CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal against Trinidad & Tobago. (Photo: Mexsport)

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey – As head coach Hernan Dario Gomez prepared Panama for what should be expected when it faces Trinidad & Tobago in a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, he just referred back to the group stage.

The Colombian said a Group A encounter against Haiti that opened the competition – a 1-1 draw on July 7 in Frisco, Texas – was the perfect preparation for the Soca Warriors.

“I’m not surprised how Trinidad & Tobago’s game has developed because I’ve faced them,” Gomez said. “Like Haiti, we’ve faced them before.  It’s a team that’s fast and organized, a team that has a lot of similarities.”

Like each of its group stage matches, Panama had a lead against Haiti only to settle for a share of the points.  While the results didn’t go exactly as Gomez planned, he said there’s no reason to change the approach now.

“We know it’s a strong opponent, very strong, very complicated. We know as we advance we’re going to face stronger opponents,” commented the 59-year-old.  “We’re not going to lose our style of play, our identity to get the result we want.”

The Canaleros last faced the Caribbean runner-up in a March friendly, winning 1-0 on the road thanks to a first-half goal by Roman Torres.

“We have to play way better,” Gomez remarked.  “I’m very confident the team, game by game, has gotten better.  I think Trinidad has also gotten better and they’ve been getting confidence in this tournament as well.  It’s going to be a hard challenge for both of us.”

Gomez said he anticipates making changes to his backline, but wouldn’t commit to announcing them in a press conference the day before the match.  Panama knows all too well that the stakes get higher in the knockout stage and often matters come down to penalty kicks.  That was the case in 2005, when Panama fell to the United States in the final.

In that aspect, Gomez believes the Central Americans have a big advantage with LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo in net.

“He’s a great goalkeeper in all aspects,” Gomez finished.  “He’s a leader, he’s really fast.  He’s very important, especially for us.  It’s not a guarantee, but we always get an advantage with the player who takes the first penalty.”