SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes learned today they will have two representatives at the upcoming FIFA World Cup. Midfielder Anibal Godoy and defender Harold Cummings were named to Panama’s official 23-man roster for this summer’s tournament in Russia.
Panama will be making its first appearance at the World Cup, after securing advancement on the last day of qualifying in October and finishing in third place in the Concacaf region. The Central American nation was drawn into Group G and will face Belgium, England and Tunisia in its quest to advance to the Round of 16.
Godoy, who has played every minute of the season so far for the Quakes, was a fixture for Panama in World Cup qualifying, featuring in all 10 games of the Hex. He plays more as a defensive midfielder on the international stage as compared to his box-to-box role in San Jose, and his steadying influence in the center of the formation has made him an asset for Panamanian head coach Hernán Darío Gómez. Godoy has earned 88 caps — good for 10th most all-time for Panama — and scored one goal.
Cummings has been the top centerback for the Earthquakes this season, starting 10 games in 2018 following a year out of the game due to a leg injury. He is not expected to be a starter for Los Canaleros — Seattle Sounders centerback and Panama team captain Román Torres will have that assignment — but Cummings will be waiting in the wings to help at a moment’s notice.
Godoy started in Panama’s most recent friendly, a World Cup warm-up match against Northern Ireland, before being subbed out at the half. Cummings remained on the bench for the entire game, which ended in a scoreless draw at the Estadio Rommel Fernández in Panama City. Panama plays one more game before leaving for Russia, facing off against Norway on June 6.
Both Godoy and Cummings have been fixtures in the Quakes’ starting lineup this season, and head coach Mikael Stahre will have to find a way to replace the Panamaniacs from within the squad. Panama’s last group stage game takes place June 28, two days before the California Clasico at Stanford Stadium, so the pair will miss at least the next five games on the Earthquakes’ schedule.
“I think we have a great group now,” Stahre told Pro Soccer USA. “Of course, with two players out for the World Cup, it’s a reality and we have to fill up two spots.”
To replace Cummings, Stahre mentioned both Francois Affolter and Yeferson Quintana as options. The Swiss defender is likely the more immediate choice, as Affolter is in better shape than the Uruguayan, who is coming off an ankle injury. Jimmy Ockford, who started alongside Cummings in the last three games, including Friday’s 1-0 loss at the LA Galaxy, should stay in the lineup.
“We have options in the back four, both with Affolter and now Ockford doing really well, actually,” Stahre added. “If we are without injuries, I think we can deal with it.”
In the midfield, Stahre indicated he is looking at a lot of different options, with Fatai Alashe a prime candidate if he elects to swap out for Godoy in the same formation. Florian Jungwirth, who has split time between the midfield and defensive lines this season, could set up more as a deep defensive midfielder, and the Quakes could utilize a more attacking midfielder in front of him.
The only other field player on the Earthquakes besides Godoy to play every minute this season is Nick Lima, and he knows the team will miss the contributions of their sometimes captain. But with Cummings gone for the month of June, the right back sees a more urgent need to shore up the back line. The second year player knows just what needs to be done.
“It means we will put our trust in our other teammates and the guys coming off the bench,” Lima told Pro Soccer USA. “Jimmy [Ockford] has gotten some good experience now and played very well. We put him back there, and I feel just as comfortable with him back there. I know he is going to do his job. Perhaps Francois [Affolter] steps in, or maybe [Yeferson] Quintana steps in, and whoever it will be, we will have confidence in one another.”
Panama will kick off its first ever World Cup appearance against Group G favorites Belgium on June 18 in Sochi, followed by a much-anticipated match against England on June 24 in Nizhny Novgorod. Los Canaleros closes out the group stage against Tunisia on June 28 in Saransk. The World Cup knockout rounds begin two days later and culminate with the Final on July 15.