The US Men’s National soccer team really needs another win (or at least a draw) on Friday night playing against Gabriel Torres and upstart Panama in Orlando in fifth-round CONCACAF 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying.
US vs. Panama (ESPN2, WatchESPN, Univision USA, Friday, 7:35 pm ET): Clint Dempsey and the 4th-place US Men’s National Team (2-3-3, 20 GF-11 GA, 9 points, +1 GD in CONCACAF WCQ) face Gabriel Torres and 3rd-place Panama (2-4-2, 7 GF-5 GA, 10 points, +2 GD) in a massive 5th-round (Hexagonal) 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier from Orlando City Stadium (Grass) on Friday night.
SBR's top-rated sportsbooks have the US as solid -167 favorites here with Panama +275 and a Draw priced at +275 in the Three-way marketplace (GTBets) with the Total at 2½u -167 (GTBets). With a Win and 3 points, the US can leapfrog Panama into 3rd place and then possibly hold onto that automatic berth spot into the 2018 World Cup with only one match to follow (Trinidad and Tobago).Breaking Down Panama
Head Coach Hernán Darío Gómez and Los Canaleros (The Canal Men) enter this game in 3rd place in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers, with 1st-place Mexico (5-3-0, 18 points, 66/1 to win 2018 World Cup, BetOnline) having already qualified for next Summer’s World Cup and 2nd-place Costa Rica (4-3-1, 15 points) assured of at least making an inter-confederation playoffs -- but in reality, probably going to Soccer’s Big Dance in Russia. So Blas Pérez, Roman Torres (Seattle Sounders), Armando Cooper (Toronto FC) and Panama control their own destiny, with this match against the USMNT easily the biggest to date with all that’s at stake and that slim 1-point lead over them in the standings with just two games left in the Hex.
This will be the third meeting of the year between Luis “Matador” Tejada (+450 Anytime Goalscorer, Bet365) Panama and the USMNT, so these two clubs -- both loaded with MLS players like Defenders Michael Murillo (New York Red Bulls), Fidel Escobar (New York Red Bulls) and Adolfo Machado (Houston Dynamo) for Los Canaleros -- know each other very well by now.
In its last match at Estadio Rommel Fernández in Panama City on Sept. 5, Panama blanked Trinidad and Tobago, 3-0 as Torres gave the hosts a 1-0 lead in the 1st Half with an Own Goal making it 2-0 before Abdiel Arroyo sealed the deal, making it 3-0 with a goal for Panama in the 85th minute. Panama controlled the Time of Possession (60%-40%) and had 16 Shots (8 on Target) to Trinidad and Tobago’s 9 (4 on Target) as GK Jose Calderon notched the Clean Sheet for the upstart hosts.
Breaking Down USA
No matter whom the USMNT (80/1 to win 2018 World Cup, Intertops) and Head Coach Bruce Arena decide to start in goal GK between Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, this match seems destined for nervousness for the hosts with a Draw suiting Panama just fine and all of the pressure on a USMNT side that has been choppy at best in Hex play, from its Goalkeepers all the way up to the Strikers.
In its last CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying match, the USMNT played to a 1-1 Draw against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Sept. 5 as Bobby Wood (Hamburg, +187 Anytime Goalscorer, Bet365) bailed out the visitors with a huge goal in the 86th minute, earning the USMNT what might end up being a very valuable point with Panama (10 points) a point ahead of the USMNT and 5th-place Honduras (2-3-3, 9 points, 9 GF-16 GA -7 GD) even on points but currently having a -7 GD to the USMNT’s +2.
In the Draw against Honduras, Arena employed an MLS-heavy Starting XI with GK Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Beasley (Dynamo), Bradley (Toronto FC), Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Nagbe (Timbers), Dempsey (Sounders), Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Acosta (FC Dallas), Morris (Sounders) and Zusi (Sporting Kansas City) in a game in which the USMNT was out-shot by Honduras 11-9 (6-4 on Target). Fabian Johnson (Fitness) will miss this crucial match vs. Panama but the addition of the creative Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City) might give Arena some more scoring outlets in his attacking Midfield.
Orlando Weather & Series Trends
The Weather Channel forecast for Orlando on Friday night is currently calling for PM Thunderstorms with a Low of 76° with ESE Winds around 8 mph and 77% Humidity, so possibly nasty conditions, but the situation will outweigh the weather and often the reality is that forecasts end up drier than expected from even a short distance.
The USMNT really needs a Clean Sheet here at 655 W. Church Street to assure no nightmare (Loss) scenario develops on Friday in the Sunshine State, potentially embarrassing this national team -- which has qualified for every World Cup since 1986 -- somewhere down the line. Luckily for the USMNT, it finishes up Hexagonal play against 6th-place Trinidad and Tobago (1-0-7, 4 GF-15 GA, -11 GD) on Oct. 10 while Panama and Costa Rica will be colliding that same day in Panama City.
A look at the series Record between these two nations reveals “Deuce” Dempsey (+125 Anytime Goalscorer, Bet365) and the USMNT to be a powerful (W-D-L) 12-6-1 (33 GF-12 GA) overall, although Los Canaleros have played the USMNT tough of late, drawing with them in the 2015 Gold Cup Third-Place match and in both meetings this year by 1-1 scores in CONCACAF World Cup Group Stage play in Panama in March and in this past Summer’s Gold Cup.
With so much pressure on the USMNT and Panama (Draw No Bet +350, Bet365) fairly confident and having such a strong Roster, expect the visitors to score a goal in this situation, possibly from Pérez (+450 Anytime Goalscorer, Bet365) or Torres (+350 Anytime Goalscorer, Bet365), ruining any ideas of the USMNT getting 3 points and leapfrogging the visitors in the standings. With so much pressure, expecting another 1-1 scoreline from these two (and backing another Under at 2½-166, Bet365) with few real quality scoring attempts for both seems like the best betting approach here.Predicted Final Score: USA 1, Panama 1Free Soccer Pick: Under 2.5 GoalsBest Line Offered: Bet365