International off-calendar friendly season is wrapping up, and tonight there are two matches you may be particularly interested in. First, since we're in the United States, let's start off with the U.S. Men's National Team, who will take on Panama in Panama City tonight (5:30 PT, ESPN3/Galavision). Much like the USMNT's game over the weekend, a narrow victory over Venezuela, this is a 'B' international, with both the Americans and Panamanians missing many, if not quite all, of their main first team talent. That said, there are still some players who are on the cusp of the first team who may be able to parlay these friendlies into some competitive fixtures, like Brek Shea, C.J. Sapong, Teal Bunbury, Benny Feilhaber, and Geoff Cameron. Perhaps Chivas USA's very own Heath Pearce will shine, and get in the mix for World Cup qualifying. First, though, is tonight's match.
For Panama, expect another tough opponent, but the U.S. will have to like their chances. No doubt both teams will be thinking about their last two matches, both in the Gold Cup last year. Panama shocked the U.S. by beating them 2-1 in group play, before the Americans beat them 1-0 in the semifinal of the tournament. Panama has some good players, and two players who have recently signed to MLS clubs, Blas Perez of FC Dallas, and Gabriel Gomez of the Philadelphia Union, are expected to feature. And since this is an away match for the U.S., it cannot be discounted that the atmosphere could make for a tough match.
Meanwhile, Mexico and Venezuela also square off tonight in another 'B' international, to be played in Houston (6 pm PT, Univision). The two countries have played a great deal in the past couple of years, and while Mexico has generally had the upper hand, Venezuela beat El Tri 3-0 in their last meeting back in June 2011. Mexico is featuring only players in the FMF, while Venezuela is using the same squad from Saturday's match against the Americans. You'll recall that Chivas USA forward Alejandro Moreno captained la vinotinto Saturday and played over 80 minutes. We'll have to see if he gets the armband again tonight.
Both squads will be tuning up and looking to impress their coaches much the same way that the USMNT participants are doing this month for Jurgen Klinsmann. Mexico start off their World Cup Qualifying campaign later this year, along with the U.S., while Venezuela is fully underway in their CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying campaign. Although Venezuela can shock opponents, I think Mexico has the edge in this match. Since it's being played in the U.S., it is a neutral site, but fans of the Mexican team will be there in full force, and it will probably be as close to a home-like atmosphere as they can get on the road. I expect Mexico to win comfortably.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!