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New-look Panama out to make strong start
Head coach Americo Gallego (in the picture) taking over as manager after Julio Dely Valdes took over on an interim basis and guided the Caneleros to the Gold Cup quarterfinals. (Photo courtesy Federacion Panamena de Futbol)
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MIAMI.- Panama knew 2019 would be a year of transition. You don’t make the FIFA World Cup for the first-time ever and come out the same on the other side.

The transition continues into Nations League play, with coach Americo Gallego taking over as manager after Julio Dely Valdes took over on an interim basis and guided the Caneleros to the Gold Cup quarterfinals.

Gallego hasn’t managed professionally since 2015, but Panama is betting the veteran Argentine will be the man needed to help Panama’s new generation bloom.

Some holdovers remain from the generation that helped the traditionally baseball-crazy country turn into a soccer nation. Adolfo Machado, the 34-year-old defender, and plus midfielders Alberto Quintero and Armando Cooper, both 31, lend a veteran presence to the team.

Its success, however, will largely depend on how quickly the next generation gets locked in. Attacking midfielder Edgar Barcenas and defender Fidel Escobar both have been involved with the national team for some time now, but the Spain-based players will be expected to produce results for Gallego’s squad.

Other players benefitting from the Panama-to-Spain connection paved by Rommel Fernandez and Dely Valdes, including Alaves B midfielder Jose Luis Rodriguez, who started all three matches at the 2018 World Cup. and Cartagena midfielder Adalberto Carrasquilla also will be hoping to break through.

Gallego has pieces to work with, but change rarely happens over night in international soccer. He’ll have to make a connection quickly with his players to find success in a group including upset-minded Bermuda and Gold Cup champion Mexico.

 
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