Statistical take on U.S. vs. Panama
The United States men play the second of two January friendlies tonight, in Panama City against Los Canaleros at 8:30 ET on ESPN3. Here are five notes to get you ready:
• Seven months ago, Panama shocked the U.S. 2-1 in the Gold Cup group stage. That was Team USA's first loss in 26 group matches at the competition. It was also Panama's first win over the United States in their nine meetings. The U.S. avenged that loss in the semifinals, winning 1-0 on a Clint Dempsey goal in the 76th minute, to become the first country to reach four straight Gold Cup finals.
• Six months after his hiring, Jurgen Klinsmann is hitting the CONCACAF road, citing a need to inure his team to the idiosyncrasies of playing in Central America. Klinsmann will coach his first away game in the region much sooner than his three predecessors did, and he's the only one of the last four coaches to do so voluntarily. Bob Bradley's first CONCACAF road game was a year and an half after he took the job, a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win at Barbados in June 2008. Bruce Arena's first CONCACAF away game was a 1-0 loss to Mexico in the 1999 Confederations Cup, 10 months after he took over. Steve Sampson waited over a year before visiting Trinidad & Tobago for a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win in 1996.
• Following Saturday's 1-0 triumph over Venezuela and November's 3-2 win in Slovenia, the United States has an opportunity to win three straight games for the first time under Klinsmann and the first time since last summer's Gold Cup. The last time Team USA won three consecutive games, with at least two of those games on the road, was not actually so long ago. In 2009, at the tail end of the last World Cup qualifying cycle, the Americans beat El Salvador, Trinidad & Tobago and Honduras consecutively by one goal apiece, with the latter two games away from home.
• Neither Panama nor the United States will be fielding its best squad, so the Soccer Power Index cannot accurately project a result for this match. But it's worth noting that the United States is ranked third in CONCACAF and 36th in the world. Panama is fifth regionally and 53rd in the world, and Los Canaleros are widely considered a dark horse to reach the 2014 World Cup. If each country did feature its top side, Panama would be a 42.9 percent favorite to win at home, with the U.S. given a 26.7 percent chance of victory.
• Wearing the captain's armband, Jermaine Jones was widely considered the best player on the field against Venezuela, and the stats back up that assertion. He completed a game-high 72 passes, a total surpassed in the Klinsmann era only by Jose Torres, versus Costa Rica. The distribution led to attacks as well, as Jones completed 22 passes into the final third of the field, tied for most under Klinsmann with Landon Donovan against Costa Rica.