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Panama up next for the U.S.

Americans, who rolled through group play, meet the Central American team in the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup.

June 16, 2007|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

FOXBOROUGH, MASS. — The biggest obstacle the U.S. team faced through its first three matches in soccer's Gold Cup may have been boredom.

After all the Americans never trailed -- in fact, they never were even scored on -- in rolling over Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago and El Salvador in group play, advancing to today's quarterfinal match against Panama with the tournament's only unblemished record. And they're 7-0-1 overall under first-year Coach Bob Bradley.

But all that success does have a downside. Because Bradley's team has trailed for only seven minutes in its eight matches this year, no one's sure how it will react if it's challenged today.

"I'll guess we'll see," said midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, who had two goals in a 4-0 win over El Salvador on Wednesday. "We do have a lot of veterans but also a lot of young players. It will be interesting to see how the team deals with that because this is a new era. A new coach, new team, new players."

And an old foe in Panama, which played the U.S. scoreless for 120 minutes in the 2005 Gold Cup final before losing the title on penalty kicks. However this Panamanian team, with Alexandre Guimaraes, the former World Cup coach of Costa Rica, at the helm, is much improved.

"The impact that Guimaraes has had is pretty apparent," Bradley said. "It will be a different kind of game than we've had thus far in this tournament. We expect a fast-paced, physical game."

Panama, which dominated Mexico yet lost, 1-0, in a foul-filled final match in group play, will be without three key players -- veteran midfielders Gabriel Gomez and Rolando Escobar and defender Roman Torres -- who will be serving suspensions today. The U.S., meanwhile, has its full roster available.

Bradley says Panama still has enough talent and athleticism left to challenge the Americans on set plays and especially at midfield, where the U.S. has dominated. And if that translates into a Panamanian lead at any time today, even Bradley can't predict how his team would react.

"We've not been in that situation yet. Certainly not in a pressure game," Bradley said. "So we'll see."

Beasley has a solution: score first so you don't have to worry about it.

"Nobody wants to go down a goal," he said. "We're not going to do it as a test to see what we're going to do or what players show up. We feel that we're on a high right now. We don't want to come down. But at the same time we don't want to get too ahead of ourselves. Panama is definitely a team that's coming up."

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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Schedule

CONCACAF Gold Cup matchups (all times PDT):

QUARTERFINALS

Today, at Foxborough, Mass.

* Canada vs. Guatemala, 10 a.m.

* Panama at United States, 1 p.m.

Sunday, at Houston

* Honduras vs. Guadeloupe, noon

* Mexico vs. Costa Rica, 3 p.m.

SEMIFINALS

Thursday, at Chicago

* Canada-Guatemala winner

vs. United States-Panama winner, 4 p.m.

* Honduras-Guadeloupe winner

vs. Mexico-Costa Rica winner, 7 p.m.

CHAMPIONSHIP

Sunday, June 24, at Chicago

* Semifinals winners, noon

Source: Associated Press

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