Panama opened up its 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup campaign with an ultimately decisive 2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago in the Group D opener at Allianz Field on Tuesday evening.
The match started with four MLS players on the pitch — Red Bulls right back Michael Murillo, Earthquakes centerback Harold Cummings and captain and Sounders mainstay Roman Torres, making up 3/4 of Panama's back four, and Trinidad & Tobago starting Kevin Molino at his Minnesota United FC home stadium.
The first half was evenly played, with possession slightly tipped in T&T's favor, 50.2% to 49.8%. Though Panama led 9-2 in shots by the halftime break, and Trinidad & Tobago had some chances largely courtesy of Nathan Lewis's multiple right-side runs, neither team threatened with a shot on goal until the 53th minute.
Panama got on the board at that juncture, with ex-Toronto FC midfielder Armando Cooper taking a pass from Gabriel Torres and neatly rounding T&T 'keeper Marvin Phillip and midfielder Khaleem Hyland on his way to a composed finish. Then, after some more Panama chances throughout the half, they broke through for a second in the 68th minute, with Edgar Barcenas persevering with multiple follow-up shots on a Torres attempt, finally getting one over the line.
Despite putting in Sounders wingback Joevin Jones as an impact sub in the 65th minute, T&T couldn't ignite their comeback. Molino came closest, getting snuffed out in front of goal in the 87th minute. The Impact's Omar Browne made a brief, late appearance to help Panama close out the win.
- 53' – PAN – Armando Cooper
- 68' – PAN – Edgar Barcenas
- THE BIG PICTURE: In what could be the most important match to determine how Group D will shake out, Panama seized control, ultimately looking the deserving side after the cagey first half. Trinidad & Tobago, recently accustomed to spoiling American dreams, get the chance to do it again Saturday in Cleveland when they face the defending Gold Cup champs — though the U.S. took care of business (in a Christian Pulisic breakthrough match) the last time the teams met on American soil.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The opening goal by Cooper broke the deadlock, emerging as a moment of positive play in a match that had lacked much finesse or creativity up to that point.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: While Gabriel Torres didn't get on the scoresheet himself, he did provide the selfless assist to Cooper for the opener, and took the opening shot in the sequence that led to Barcenas' breakthrough. (Barcenas also deserves some recognition for his workrate, especially in the more sluggish first half.)
- PAN: Saturday, June 22 vs. Guyana (5:30 pm ET | FS2, Univision, Univision Deportes)
- TRI: Saturday, June 22 vs. United States (8 pm ET | FS1, Univision, Univision Deportes)