HOUSTON — When Panama defeated the US 2-1 during the Group Stage phase of the Gold Cup, it was easily the biggest upset of the tournament.
Despite the victory over one of the tournament favorites, los Canaleros once again find themselves in the role of underdogs. And with the Yanks looking for redemption, the Central Americans think they can repeat the result to reach the final.
“Maybe for many [it would be an upset to beat the US again],” said Panama head coach Julio Dely Valdés after Tuesday morning’s training session. “But for me, it wouldn’t be a surprise. Panama has shown to be one of the most competitive teams in this tournament and that’s why we are where we are.”
For Dely Valdés, the key to defeating the US is quite simple: Keep the same mentality with which they’ve gone into every match.
“I’m trying to convey what we did in the first game,” he said. “But undoubtedly, this will be a different game. I think [the US] will also approach it the same way. The fact that we beat them gives them much more motivation.”
The Panamanian players looked lively during their training session on Tuesday at Robertson Stadium, clearly expecting a tough test against the US.
“We’re ready and motivated to pull a good result,” defender Felipe Baloy said. “This is a semifinal match against a very difficult opponent.”
Midfielder Gabriel Enrique Gómez cited the 2005 Gold Cup to make his argument that Panama can defeat the same opponent twice during the same tournament.
“We had … [a similar] experience in 2005, when we faced Colombia in the group stage and in the semifinal and we beat them,” said Gómez. “Now we’re in a similar instance and … with our feet on the ground and plenty of optimism, we believe in our work.”
Added Dely Valdés, “[We’ve] shown to be a very united group, very solid, and we’re accomplishing a difficult task. [The players] have done their part to make it so.”