The United States and Panama are both likely to greet today's Gold Cup third-place game with a reluctant "Do we have to?" Well, yes, you both have to. The USMNT ended up in this game after conceding goals on two set pieces and wasting their other chances against Jamaica, while Panama appeared on the cusp of beating Mexico despite being down a man before MLS referee Mark Geiger gave a penalty kick that - even by CONCACAF standards - was bizarre and furiously disputed. Panama then gave away a less controversial penalty kick in extra time before making a banner accusing the federation of being thieves. Good times.
Key player: DaMarcus Beasley
One of the fundamental players from the USMNT's best era is probably going to make his last national team appearance today, so we have to go with DMB as today's key player. The only American man to play in four World Cups may not start given yesterday's report from ESPNFC's Doug McIntyre, but he's sure to get his 122nd cap sometime this afternoon.
Beasley will probably not score the game-winning goal or anything like that, but we've seen Fabian Johnson create danger fairly consistently from left back. Johnson plays the role differently from Beasley - he tends to underlap and even get into shooting positions rather than the traditional overlap along the touchline - but in either case the role involves destabilizing an opposing defense. Panama will want to stay compact, so Beasley's runs from left back will be needed to force them to defend the full width of the field.
Key question: Will either team actually be interested in this game?
The USMNT will want to send Beasley off with a win, of course, but let's be real: There was no expectation within the team that they would be playing today. The US wanted to be playing in Philadelphia in a giant stadium, not sort of near Philadelphia in the newer but smaller PPL Park. Meanwhile, Panama is still furious after the #GeigerShow destroyed their hopes of a stunning upset of Mexico.
So, as with so many third place games, what's the point? There's doing a standard professional job of putting in work and trying hard, of course, but there's no replacing the focus and energy you find in an actual, meaningful game. The team that wins this game is going to be the one that has made more progress in getting over the disappointment of having to play today at all.
Match date/time: Saturday 7/25, 4:00pm Eastern
Venue: PPL Park (Chester, PA)
TV: Fox Sports 2 (English), UniMas (Spanish), Univision (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Online: Fox Sports Go (English), Fox Soccer 2Go (English, requires subscription), Univision Deportes En Vivo Extra (Spanish)
Check back in just under two hours for our gamethread.