CARSON, Calif. – Panama might be without a good deal of their most important players for Sunday's friendly against the US national team at StubHub Center (4 pm ET; ESPN, UniMas, UDN), but that's hardly an excuse not to give the Yanks a real battle.
That's goalkeeper Jaime Penedo's take ahead of what he sees as a huge opportunity for Los Canaleros, who, friendly or not, would like to answer the losses in the last two meetings with the Yanks, the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup final and a November 2013 clash that ended Panama's dream of reaching the World Cup for the first time.
“We know that the US is one of the big competitors in the region,” said Penedo, who joined the LA Galaxy following a superb showing in the 2013 Gold Cup. “For us, the US has always been one of the most complete teams. It's going to be a hard game. We don't have all of our [first-choice] players, and the US has a lot of players playing in MLS. But we have enough to make it a big game.”
Penedo is one of three MLS players on Panama's roster, joined by FC Dallas forward Blas Perez – who can equal Luis Tejada's program-record 37 goals with a strike Sunday – and Colorado Rapids forward Gabriel Torres. Those three, as well as Venezuela-based midfielder Marcos Sanchez, started in the World Cup qualifier loss to the Yanks.
Three others on head coach Hernan Dario Gomez’s 21-man roster – defender Leonel Parris, midfielder Anibal Godoy and forward Rolando Blackburn – played in the Gold Cup final, and defender Harold Cummings was on the bench for both of the last two encounters.
Some of Panama's most important players – Tejada, defenders Felipe Baloy, Roman Torres, Carlos Rodriguez and Luis Henriquez, midfielders Gabriel Gomez, Amilcar Henriquez and Alberto Quintero among them – are away with their club teams in South and Central America and Europe.
“Let me make something clear: If it's a FIFA [fixture date] friendly, the players we have have the capacity and the work ethic to confront players like those with the US in every category,” Penedo said. “[Missing so many top players makes it] a bit more complicated. We have to have a tough mentality, and we have to take on the opponent.
“We have maybe 10 names out of 20 [veterans], but it's no excuse. Every player who comes here is a good player for the national team.”
The game is special for Penedo, who, of course, calls StubHub Center home.
“There are situations that only football can give you,” he said. “Always it's an honor to play for my national team against a big competitor, and at my home club. ... It's an honor to play in front of [Galaxy fans in the crowd Sunday], but they'll support their country.”