Gold Cup 3rd Place Preview: United States looks to finish strong vs Panama

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The addition of a 3rd Place match to the 2015 Gold Cup has been criticized by many, but it will allow some small form of redemption for a pair of teams feeling down on their luck.

The United States is coming off a depressing showing against Jamaica that has forced them to prepare for a Confederations Cup playoff in early October, and those preparations start Saturday at 4:00 from PPL Park in Philadelphia.

Clint Dempsey looks to secure his hold on the tournament’s top-scorer list, currently on top with six goals. It will also be interesting to see if Klinsmann sticks with his young central defensive partnership of Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks that has taken much criticism for a mistake-filled tournament.

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The U.S. will take on Panama, who has plenty of reason to feel sorry about themselves, but also should feel they showed well throughout the tournament in spite of the contentious decisions the other day.

Unfortunately for Panama, they’ll be without at least one player due to their meltdown during and after the Mexico match. LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Peneda, who had been stellar throughout the tournament, was suspended two matches by CONCACAF for pushing an assistant referee. Leading scorer Luis Tejada will also be missing due to his contentious red card against Mexico handed out by Mark Geiger. Other decisions could come down by CONCACAF between now and the match as the North American governing body continues to investigate the incidents from that match, but at this point we know either Luis Mejia or Jose Calderon will start in goal for Panama in Philadelphia.

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The biggest question seems how much will the Panamanian players have their hearts in a third place match following the disaster on Wednesday night. We may have seen a preview of what is to come during Friday’s training session:

For the United States, their hearts better be in this match despite what little is on the line. A second straight loss to a CONCACAF opponent would heap even more pressure on coach Jurgen Klinsmann and would throw the team into heavy turmoil ahead of a crucial Confederations Cup playoff to come in the fall.

There’s plenty more for the USMNT to lose in this match than Panama, and that could play a significant factor. Will they make amends and end the tournament on a high, or will the hard done by Panamanians push hard for revenge?