BRIAN SCIARETTA - Sunday, July 28, 2013
After a convincing run in the first five games of the tournament, the United States will take on Panama today in the finals of the 2013 Gold Cup.
The U.S team has won all five of its games by a combined score of 19-4 and has rarely looked threatened in dropping points. Meanwhile, Panama has also been playing terrific soccer and boasts two wins of Mexico this tournament. It's most recent win over El Tri came in the semifinals in front of a 90,000 pro-Mexico crowd in Dallas.
The U.S team cruised past Honduras 3-1 in the semifinals but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was sent off late in the game for protesting calls and was subsequently suspended for the finals. Coaching duties against Panama will be handled by assistant coaches Matthias Hamann and Martin Vazquez.
The Gold Cup has thus far proven to be a revelation for Landon Donovan in his return to the team. After the LA Galaxy start's four month sabbatical from early December through late March, Klinsmann has been reluctant to bring him back into the team. In the Gold Cup, however, Donovan has five goals and seven assists to lead all scorers in the tournament.
The U.S team is likely to go with a similar lineup with Nick Rimando in goal, captain DaMarcus Beasley at left back, Michael Parkhurst at right back, and the central defense tandem of Matt Besler and Clarence Goodson.
In the midfield, Kyle Beckerman and Mix Diskerud are likely to start centrally with Jose Torres starting on the left. On the right side, either Joe Corona or Alejandro Bedoya will get the nod after both players have had solid performances this Gold Cup.
Up top, Donovan and Eddie Johnson are almost surely to start.
The United States has now made the Gold Cup finals the last five tournaments. The last time it faced a team other than Mexico in the final was in 2005 when it also faced Panama. In that game, where head coach Bruce Arena was suspended, the U.S team won in a shootout after a scoreless deadlock over 120 minutes.