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US team can boost World Cup hopes with victory over Panama

Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Soccer

They may not be together much longer, though, which only adds to the urgency for Panamanian soccer's "Golden Generation." Thirteen players on the qualifying roster -- including former Los Angeles Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo -- are 29 years of age or older, making it unlikely many will be back for another shot at a World Cup berth four years from now.

"They realize this is may be their last big chance as a group to do something special," Bradley continued. "So certainly from our standpoint we expect a very motivated team; a group of guys that are going to come in here and be ready to give everything to keep their dream of going to a World Cup alive."

Panama also has recent history on its side. It hasn't lost to the U.S. since that World Cup qualifier four years ago, playing the U.S. to four consecutive 1-1 draws, including a bruising match last March in which Panama pummeled young U.S. playmaker Christian Pulisic.

And while Pulisic hasn't forgotten the pounding, he says he's not intimidated by it, either.

"I'm going to continue (with) the same attacking style. I'm not going to change it because of how other teams are treating me," said Pulisic, who has scored or helped to set up nine of the 12 U.S. goals in the qualifying tournament. "It's to be expected in CONCACAF. These teams aren't going to give it to us easy."

Arena said the U.S. approach will be to come out aggressively and attack a well-structured defense that has allowed just five goals and given up multiple scores just once in eight qualifiers.

"We're going to go out there and try to win this game from minute 1," he said.

"We know, with the standings, the significance of getting three points. This is a game where players have to step up and perform. We expect big performances."

Here are the CONCACAF standings, Friday's schedule and the scenarios the U.S. faces:

Friday's schedule

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