Blas Pérez

Pérez powers Panama to victory in Copa América Centenario opener

Perez celebration with Panama - Copa

If there isn’t already a statue of Blas Pérez somewhere in Panama, it’s coming.

The Vancouver Whitecaps FC striker scored both of Panama’s goals in a 2-1 win over Bolivia on Monday in their Copa América Centenario opener at Orlando's Camping World Stadium. 

Pérez opened the scoring with a sliding, first-time finish in the 11th minute, becoming the first MLS player to score a goal in this year’s Copa América.

Bolivia drew the game level early in the second half, but Pérez scored a dramatic 87th-minute winner with another tidy finish to lead Panama to victory. The Panama City native, who was named Budweiser Man of the Match, also picked up a yellow card for good measure.

“Perez did more than just get on the end of a pair of crosses to help Panama pick up three points,” wrote contributor Franco Panizo. “The veteran striker was active throughout the game, especially in the first half, and was involved in several of his nation's most promising sequences. He was aggressive with the ball and unafraid to try to fire it on frame, finishing with six shots and four on target.”

The 35-year-old now has 41 goals for Panama – just one shy of the all-time leader.

His brace on Monday also puts him atop the Copa América Centenario Golden Boot race after the opening weekend.

Monday was Panama's first-ever match in the Copa América. They become the fourth team, and first since 1921, to win its debut match at the tournament. 

Pérez and the Panamanian national team return to action on Friday against Argentina, before closing out the group stage on Tuesday, June 14 vs. Chile. 

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