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USMNT vs. Panama: Top Storylines and Predictions for 2023 Gold Cup Semis

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    CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 9: Matt Turner of United States of America during the penalty shoot out during the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup Quarter Final between United States of America and Canada at TQL Stadium on July 9, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)

    Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

    The United States men’s national team is one win away from advancing to its fourth straight Concacaf Gold Cup final.

    Wednesday’s semifinal matchup with Panama in San Diego looks easier on paper than Sunday’s quarterfinal challenge versus Canada.

    The USMNT has to hope it does not need penalty kicks against to advance. The quarterfinal result was a product of an average 90 minutes in regulation.

    The host nation must be sharper across every layer of the pitch to achieve the win in regulartion.

    Panama comes into the semifinal contest with three wins and one draw in the tournament. Los Canaleros routed Qatar 4-0 to reach the semifinals.

USMNT Needs to Be Much Sharper in Regulation

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    CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 09: Brandon Vazquez #19 of the United States celebrates after a goal during the second half of the Quarterfinal match in the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup against Canada at TQL Stadium on July 09, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Dorton/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

    John Dorton/USSF/Getty Images for USSF

    The Americans did not wake up until the 88th minute of their quarterfinal victory over Canada.

    Brandon Vazquez’s second tally of the competition ignited chaos for the next 32 minutes of game play that included three more goals, the last of which was an 114th own goal from Canada that sent the match to penalties.

    The USMNT holds the advantage in goal with Matt Turner if the semifinal showdown does reach penalties, but it can prevent that from being a possibility.

    Sunday’s performance was likely a product of a step up in competition from the final two group-stage contests against Trinidad and Tobago and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

    The Americans played their two toughest opponents to draws at the Gold Cup. They were held 1-1 by fellow semifinalist Jamaica in the tournament opener.

    A change up top with Vazquez replacing Jesus Ferreira could be in the cards for interim manager B.J. Callaghan. The FC Cincinnati striker is responsible for two of the three goals against Canada and Jamaica. Ferreira produced hat-tricks against the two weaker foes.

    A strong start is required, regardless of which striker is in the lineup, and if that occurs, the USMNT should take over the contest and avoid another trip into extra time and penalties.

Panama After 3rd Gold Cup Final Appearance

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    ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JULY 8: Ismael Díaz #11 of Panama celebrates with teammate Edgar Bárcenas #10 after scoring his third goal of the match against Qatar during the second half of a 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup Quarterfinals match at AT&T Stadium on July 8, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

    Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

    Panama is looking for a return to the Gold Cup final for the first time since 2013.

    Los Canaleros appeared in the title match of the North American tournament in 2005 and 2013. They lost to the USMNT on both instances. They took the Americans to penalties in 2005 and lost 1-0 in 2013.

    Panama has been one of the most consistent squads over four matches, as they earned seven points in the group stage and blew out Qatar in the quarterfinals.

    Ismael Diaz, who is second to Ferreira in the Golden Boot race, fired three goals past Qatar. He will be one of the danger men the Americans will have to contain.

    Nashville SC’s Anibal Godoy may be the most important player for the USMNT to slow down on Wednesday.

    Godoy, the Panama captain, has the most international appearances of anyone on either roster. He can dictate the pace of the contest from his deep midfield position, and if he succeeds in that, the Americans may not have as much time on the ball as expected.


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    CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 09: Jesus Ferreira #9 of the United States scores on a penalty kick against Canada during the penalty shoot out in the Quarterfinal match in the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup at TQL Stadium on July 09, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

    Trevor Ruszkowski/USSF/Getty Images for USSF

    United States 2, Panama 0

    The Americans are expected to advance to the Gold Cup final.

    That is the minimum expectation for any USMNT side, no matter if the “A” team is competing or the “B” squad is being used, like it is for this edition of the competition.

    Expect Ferreira or Vazquez to get on the score sheet against Panama, and for the Americans to create plenty more chances through their creative players.

    With Turner in net, the Americans should have plenty of confidence they can record a clean sheet and come away with a low-scoring victory.

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