FRISCO, Texas – A handful of MLS players have joined their national teams for Wednesday’s FIFA date, but no one will have a tougher job than FC Dallas’ Panamanian duo.
Wednesday afternoon in Panama City, forward Blas Pérez and defender Carlos Rodríguez will host the world champions as Panama take on Spain at Estadio Rommel Fernández (4:30 pm ET, beIN Sport).
“The best thing to take on Spain would be to allow us to play with 22 players instead of 11,” Panama coach Julio Cesar Dely Valdés joked to Spanish newspaper Marca.
Wednesday’s friendly is the first time Panama have ever hosted Spain, with coach Vicente del Bosque naming a squad mixed with youth and experience. Stalwarts like Andrés Iniesta, Juan Mata, David Villa and Cesc Fabregas headline the roster while Athletic Bilbao winger Markel Susaeta is in line for his first cap with La Furia Roja.
“It’s an honor for Spain to play us in Panama,” Pérez told reporters through a translator last Friday before leaving for Panama City. “It’s going to be a very important game and I’m excited about playing the World Cup champs. The most important thing is getting more experience playing against players who are on some of the best teams in Spain.”
For Pérez, who finished the season in fantastic form with four goals in his last four matches for FC Dallas, it’s not about who Spain bring, but rather representing Panama on the world stage.
“I’m not really looking forward to playing against anyone in particular, it’s just great to play Spain,” Pérez said. “This is the first time Panama will play Spain, so I’m looking forward to proving Panama is getting bigger in soccer.”
Wednesday’s game carries added importance for Panama as they make final preparations for the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in what is probably the best chance the Central American country has ever had to qualify for the World Cup.
“It’s a game that we can use to end the year well,” Rodríguez told MLSsoccer.com through a translator. “We have some important tournaments next year … so we have to play these games very serious to be prepared for final qualifying for the World Cup.”