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Gold Cup 2011: US Soccer Faces Panama Tonight

Fresh off their convincing 2-0 win over Canada in the opening game of the 2011 Gold Cup, the United States Men’s Soccer team takes on Panama in the second game of group play this evening. The game takes place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida (home of the Buccaneers). First kick is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Fox Soccer Channel. It will also be on Telefutura in Spanish.

This game could very well decide who wins group C since Panama got a 3-2 victory over Guadeloupe in their opening game. However, Canada was widely seen as the second best team in this group, so the US should be a heavy favorite tonight and an even heavier favorite in the final group game against minnows Guadeloupe.

The tournament has been rocked by this weeks’ news that five members of the Mexican squad, including starting goaltender Guillermo Ochoa, defenders Francisco Rodriguez and Edgar Duenas, and midfielders Christian Bermudez and Antonio Naelson have all been sent home from the tournament after testing positive for a banned substance. Mexico had been the clear favorites to win this tournament, but this news certainly closes the gap and could make a team like the US smell blood in the water.

This will be the fourth time the US has met Panama in the Gold Cup and in those four meetings the US has never lost (3-0-1). In fact, the US has eliminated Panama in each of the last three tournaments.The most meeting is likely the 2005 Gold Cup Final, which the US won on penalty kicks, with the deciding kick coming off the foot of Landon Donovan.

Should the US win tonight and Canada earns at least a point, the US is guarnateed a spot in the next round.