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The USA will take on Panama in the 2017 Gold Cup at the Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday. The U.S. will be expected to get their Group B campaign started in winning fashion against a side they have usually beaten.
Coach Bruce Arena has chosen a squad littered with talent from MLS for this year’s tournament. He will rely on players such as FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta to carry the team through.
Acosta is already being touted as a potentially key figure for Arena’s men. Goal’s Oli Platt believes the 21-year-old will help form the spine of this team: “Young midfielders Kellyn Acosta and Cristian Roldan should provide plenty of energy in the middle of the park.”
The U.S. will need Acosta on form to win the midfield battle. There will be extra onus on the men in the middle, since Panama’s star turn also plays in midfield, per Charles Boehm of MLSSoccer.com.
Boehm rightly singles out Anibal Godoy as the main force for Panama: “A powerful central-midfield presence for the San Jose Earthquakes, Godoy will be key to Los Canaleros’ hopes of matching the USMNT in the engine-room battle, which figures to be a pivotal area on Saturday. He’s rangy, gritty and capable of conjuring up a spectacular strike from distance now and then.”
Godoy has a talent for driving from the middle and knitting the midfield and forward lines together. However, what the 27-year-old will need is for Panama’s strikers to showcase the movement and pace to cause USA’s defence a host of problems.
A player such as FC Porto man Ismael Diaz would need to deliver. The 20-year-old is a rangy attacker, one who is a threat in the air. It will be up to Chelsea centre-back Matt Miazga to display his potential by keeping Diaz under wraps.