Gustav Svensson – Sweden
Svensson is a versatile defender for the Sounders who has lined up all over the back line of the pitch. He uses his brain as much as his brawn to track attackers and go after the ball. Svensson also seems to only score big goals for the Sounders, he had one to send them back to the MLS Cup last year and another momentous shot from distance in a game earlier this year. He has a handful of appearances for the Swedish national team at the tender age of 31, but got the call for this year’s World Cup. The Swedes are at their first World Cup since 2006 and are without Zlatan Ibrahimović. Svensson is not the goal scorer that Zlatan was but he will be expected to find open teammates and link up well with the defense. They won their opener this year 1-0 against South Korea. Then were stunned by Germany with a stoppage time goal off a free kick 2-1. This put extra pressure on the Swedes to win against Mexico, which they did in resounding fashion 3-0. The win, coupled with Germany’s loss to South Korea means Sweden goes through to the knockout round.
Roman Torres – Panama
Torres is the heaviest player at this year’s World Cup weighing in at almost 200 pounds, and he is trying to throw his weight around to get Panama into the knockout stage. This is Panama’s first ever appearance in the World Cup and they do not want it to end early. They lost to Belgium in their first match 3-0. It was closer than the score looks though. Panama did nothing to inspire confidence in their next match against England losing 6-1. The one goal was the first Panama has scored in a World Cup. They wrapped up the group stage with another loss, this one 2-1 to Tunisia, and the goal for Panama was an own goal. This is a new chapter for Panamanian soccer now that they have qualified for a World Cup, but they are heading home nonetheless.
Torres is something of a cult figure in Panamanian soccer circles right now, because of his size and the passion with which he plays. Torres has made more than 100 appearances for Panama since his debut in the 2005 Gold Cup. He also was named to CONCACAF’s best XI for 2017, which is icing on the cake for Torres who also scored the goal that sent Panama to the World Cup this year. He is a big central defender who can make plays on the ball in the air.
David Guzman – Costa Rica
Guzman is one of the more technically skilled players on the Timbers and he is bringing that to a surprising Costa Rican squad. They aren’t ranked very high according to FIFA’s world ranking coming in at 23rd, but they usually play good defense and have a good counter attack. Guzman is an orchestrater from his midfield spot and is more about setting people up and playing good defense than creating scoring chances himself.
He is 28 years old and has 46 caps with the national team starting in 2010. Guzman is likely trying to forget his last game against Serbia. He made a foul that set up the winning free kick in the 56th minute and could not come back after that. They came up short against Serbia 1-0 in their first match, and failed to score against Brazil in their second game as well, losing 2-0. They were not going to advance with a good showing against Switzerland in their last game, but they gave as good as they got in the 2-2 draw before they head home and start thinking about next time.
Andy Polo – Peru
Polo has already been eliminated from reaching the next round. They did not get a goal against France or Denmark in their first games, losing 1-0. And beating Australia 2-0 was simply a moral victory for the Peruvian side. Nonetheless, Polo is an athletic winger who uses his speed and acceleration to create scoring chances. He can play a few different positions up front for the Timbers and for the national team to pressure the defense.