TAMPA, Fla. — They may have the same number of points after the first round of Gold Cup Group C matches, but LA Galaxy captain and US star Landon Donovan believes the Americans are favorites heading into their match against Panama on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
“When we play at home, we have to be favorites,” Donovan told a throng of Spanish-language media members after practice on Thursday afternoon. “It’s always like that. If we’re playing in Panama, that’s another game. But when we’re at home, we go out to win against any team.”
Manager Bob Bradley’s side also has a history of recent success in matches played in Tampa. A Sacha Kljestan stoppage-time goal lifted the US to a 2-1 come-from-behind win over El Salvador last February, and Donovan netted a hat trick in a 3-1 victory over Ecuador on the same field in March of 2007.
“We feel at home here,” US goalkeeper Tim Howard said of the home stadium of the NFL's Tampa Bay Bucaneers. “We feel comfortable here even though we don’t get a chance to play here all that often.”
The Americans and Panamanians are both coming off wins in the opening group matches. The US handled Canada 2-0 on Tuesday while Panama had to hold on for a 3-2 win over Guadeloupe.
The US are ranked at No. 22 in the latest FIFA world rankings, while Panama are well behind the pace at No. 67.
The Americans have also had Panama’s number in four all-time Gold Cup matches, including three 2-1 victories and a PK triumph in the 2005 final at the old Giants Stadium.
“Certainly, I think that there’s not very many teams in his region where we don’t feel like we’re the favorites,” central defender Clarence Goodson said. “We’re a strong team in this region and we have to go out there and show people that we are.”