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Yankees legend Mariano Rivera inspires Panama before Gold Cup semi

Jul 24, 2013, 2:20 PM EDT

Mariano Rivera AP

Panama face Mexico tonight in the Gold Cup’s other semifinal contest at Cowboys Stadium. They square-off at 10pm ET after the USA play Honduras.

Panama are the underdogs, but leading up to the game, they got a little help from someone who knows a thing or two about closing out games.

New York Yankees legendary Panamanian pitcher Mariano Rivera.

The Yankees relief pitcher happened to be in town as New York took on the Texas Rangers this week so the 43-year-old, who has won five World Series’, gave Panama’s national team some inspiration.

How cool is that?

Los Canaleros face their toughest task yet this evening, after impressing during the Gold Cup group stages and quarterfinals.

But will Rivera help Panama cause a big upset and oust El Tri to make just their second-ever Gold Cup final? One Panamanian striker very familiar to MLS fans was certainly impressed.

“It was a very motivational conversation,” FC Dallas and Panama striker Blas Pérez told reporters. “He’s a person who is a great believer in God, he gave us a lot of inspiring quotes that will stay with us and we have to [look to him] as a great example.”

Panama are huge underdogs, there’s no doubt about it. But Rivera’s words may just help them overturn a Mexican side that will be heavily supported in Dallas this evening.

(MORE: Torres’ double gives Panama first-ever win vs. Mexico)

Inspirational words or not, Panama will need to be at their best all over the pitch to stand a chance of beating Mexico.

But, wait a minute… that’s right, Panama already beat Mexico in the Group A opener back on July 7. A 2-1 win in Pasadena came courtesy of two goals from Gabriel Torres, the joint-top goalscorer in the 2013 Gold Cup with five to his name, and was Panama’s first win against Mexico in history.

Isn’t that inspirational enough?

Regardless, forwards Perez and Torres will both cause Mexico plenty of problems tonight and expect an epic battle in Dallas. Can El Tri beat an inspired Panamanian side?

If they can’t, Mariano Rivera played a part in Panama’s trip to the Gold Cup final. You better believe it.

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