Panama headed to the Gold Cup with one of the rising stars of CONCACAF soccer.
Blas Perezscored two spectacular goals to lead Colombian champion Cucuta to a 3-1 win over Boca Juniors last week in the first leg of the Libertadores Cup semifinals, but he wasn't with Cucuta for the second leg Thursday night in Buenos Aires.
Perez, who will play next season for Spanish club Hercules, and Jose Luis Garces of Portuguese club Belenenses should give the Canaleros one of the most dangerous frontlines in the tournament. Colorado Rapids forward Roberto Brown was ruled out because of injury and replaced by former Real Salt Lake's Luis Tejada.
Panama is coached by Alexandre Guimaraes, who led Costa Rica to the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. The pressure will be on the Brazilian-born Guimaraes. The bar was raised significantly when Panama reached the final of the 2005 Gold Cup, where it fell to the USA on penalty kicks.
GOLD CUP RECORD:
Record: 2 wins, 3 losses, 4 ties.
Goalkeepers: Jose Calderon (Chepo), Oscar McFarlane (Tauro), Jaime Penedo (Osasuna/ESP);
Defenders:Reinaldo Anderson (Arabe Unido), Felipe Baloy (Monterrey/MEX), Amilcar Henriquez (Arabe Unido), Luis Henriquez (Tauro), Luis Moreno (Inde. Santa Fe/COL), Carlos Rivera (Tauro);
Midfielders: Alberto Blanco (Plaza Amador), Rolando Escobar (Tauro), Gabriel Gomez (Inde. Santa Fe/COL), Victor Herrera (Puerto Rico Islanders/PUR), Engin Mitre (Plaza Amador), Juan Perez (Tauro), Ricardo Phillips (San Francisco), Juan Ramon Solis (Aguila/SLV);
Forwards:Edwin Aguilar (Tauro), Jose Luis Garces (Belenenses/POR), Nicolas Munoz (Aguila/SLV), Blas Perez (Cucuta/COL), Luis Tejada (no club), Roman Torres (La Equidad/COL).
Coach:Alexandre GUIMARAES (Costa Rica).