With two important World Cup qualifiers less than two weeks away, Panama has announced its 24-man roster. Included in the mix are seven players from MLS, including two from the San Jose Earthquakes, defender Harold Cummings and midfielder Anibal Godoy.
The other MLS representives selected by head coach Hernán Darío Gómez are Michael Amir Murillo (New York Red Bulls), Román Torres (Seattle Sounders), Adolfo Machado (Houston), Miguel Camargo (New York City FC), and Armando Cooper (Toronto FC). Former Quakes midfielder Alberto Quintero, who along with Godoy made up the Panamaniacs last season in San Jose, was also selected.
Panama sits fourth in the Hexagonal with four points after two games, earning three points on the road in beating Honduras and a point at home in a scoreless draw with Mexico. The Panamanians play at Trinidad & Tobago on March 24 before returning home to host the United States on March 28. Positive results in both games will go a long way toward propelling the Central Americans to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Earlier in the day, Godoy shared his hope to be part of the squad, expecting the call-up following a strong performance in the Earthquakes season opening 1-0 win against the Montreal Impact that earned the midfielder MLS Team of the Week honors.
“I would like to be in the team,” Godoy told Center Line Soccer, “and I am going to work hard so that I can help us in qualifying.”
Godoy has earned 70 caps with Panama and most recently helped his nation qualify for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup following a runners up finish in the Central American Cup. Panama was drawn into Group B for this summer’s tournament and will face the U.S. national team in group play.
Cummings made his debut with the Panamanian national team as a teenager, and at 25 years old has already earned 50 caps. The center back signed with the Earthquakes back in January, but hernia surgery kept him out of most of preseason. Only this week has he returned to full training, and he has a hill to climb to be physically fit for Panama’s two World Cup qualifiers.
“I always want to be a part of the team,” Cummings told Center Line Soccer, “but first I want to be a part of the starting line-up here in San Jose to able to be a part of the national team.”
Cummings will have to wait at least a week to make his Quakes debut, as head coach Dominic Kinnear shared that “it is good to see him out here,” but then ruled him out of Saturday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps. San Jose will travel to Sporting Kansas City the following weekend ahead of both Godoy and Cummings’ leave for international duty.
“When I play all depends on the coach,” said Cummings. “If the coach asks me to play this weekend, I will be happy to, but if not I will be waiting for my chance to get into the team. I feel that I am getting better.”
Cummings lined up against his countryman in the Earthquakes scrimmage earlier today, as Kinnear elected to keep the center back tandem of Victor Bernardez and Florian Jungwirth together with the first team. Those two will likely earn the start against Vancover, but Kinnear was encouraged to see Cummings make significant progress in his recovery.
“It is good for us,” said Kinnear. “His return will strengthen the squad. As an international, we know he is a good player. We thought he started the preseason well, in practice and in our first game, and we were looking forward to seeing him more on the field.”
Even if Cummings does not earn a starting role in San Jose before he departs for Panama’s crucial qualifiers, he may still play a significant role for his country. Those matches are still two weeks away, and Cummings saw himself being ready, regardless of whether he gets minutes with the Quakes.
“Step by step, I am working on my physical shape and my form,” said Cummings. “The trainers have really been helping me get back on the field.”
The good news for the Quakes is that the Panamanians will not miss any club games while on international duty, as San Jose will resume play with a road contest against New York City FC on April 1, three days after Panama plays host to the U.S.