PREVIEW: USA - PANAMA
The US national team will look for revenge from last week's shock defeat when they take on Panama Wednesday night in the 2011 Gold Cup semifinals at Houston's Reliant Stadium.
The US national team suffered a 2-1 defeat to Panama in the group stages last week after a series of defensive mistakes saw them fall behind by two goals in the first half. The Americans were unable to find their rhythm the whole game and it was one of the worst performances in recent history for the USMNT.
Since then, head coach Bob Bradley has made changes that have improved the backline but finishing still remains the biggest problem.
In their last game against Jamaica, the US controlled the game from the start and coasted to a relatively easy 2-0 win. Jermaine Jones scored his first international goal on a long shot that deflected off a Jamaican defender and Clint Dempsey added a late strike to put the game out of reach.
Forward Jozy Altidore suffered an injury to his hamstring and had to be removed in the first half. His status is questionable for the game against Panama.
Bob Bradley is likely to continue with the backline that has been successful the past two games. Steve Cherundolo should start on the right with Eric Lichaj continuing on the left. The central defense tandem of Clarence Goodson and Carlos Bocanegra has been effective and will start on Wednesday.
In the midfield, Landon Donovan, Jermaine Jones, and Michael Bradley should all be in the starting lineup. If Altidore is unable to play, Clint Dempsey will probably move to forward with Alejandro Bedoya or Sacha Kljestan getting the nod in the midfield.
At forward, Juan Agudelo enjoyed a strong performance against Jamaica after entering for Altidore in the 12th minute. The 18 year old picked up his second assist of the tournament on Dempsey's 80th minute goal when he sent in a pass from the right wing that Dempsey capitalized on. Agudelo could start the match if Altidore is not fit for the game.
Panama enters the game after a hard fought win over El Salvador in the quarterfinals. After falling behind 1-0 in the 80th minute, Luis Tejada equalized for the Panamanians in the 90th minute. As 30 minutes of extra time went scoreless, Panama advanced on penalty kicks.
The US will be looking to advance to their fourth straight Gold Cup final while Panama reached the final just once before in 2005.
In 2005, the US and Panama played in the Gold Cup final in New Jersey with the US defeating Panama on penalty kicks after a scoreless 120 minutes of action.