Seattle Sounders center back Roman Torres, San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Anibal Godoy and the New York Red Bulls defensive duo of Fidel Escobar (pictured above) and Michael Amir Murillo all got the nod from manager Hernan Dario “Bolillo” Gomez, who announced his XI in his pre-match press conference on Sunday evening.
Los Canaleros also handed starting roles to former MLSers Jaime Penedo, Blas Perez, Armando Cooper and Gabriel Gomez.
Panama were prohibitive underdogs against Belgium, who have been widely tabbed as dark-horse contenders to win Russia 2018, for the group-stage clash at Fisht Stadium in Sochi. This was the Red Devils' XI:
Despite some tenacious defending from Panama, especially in a scoreless first half, this one unfolded the way the prognosticators expected. Belgium broke the deadlock just after halftime via a gorgeous volley from Dries Mertens, and cruised to a 3-0 win.