BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, June 23, 2011
The United States national team won their revenge with a hard fought 1-0 victory over Panama to advance to the 2011 Gold Cup finals Saturday night where they will take on arch-rival Mexico.
US head coach Bob Bradley began the game with a similar lineup to the one that started against Jamaica on Sunday in the quarterfinals. The only change was that Juan Agudelo started at the lone forward position in place of the injured Jozy Altidore.
In defense, captain Carlos Bocanegra and Clarence Goodson started in the middle with Steve Cherundolo on the right and Eric Lichaj on the left. Since that lineup made its debut against Guadeloupe, they have yet to concede a goal.
In the five man midfield, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley started together centrally with Clint Dempsey playing on the left, Alejandro Bedoya on the right, and Sacha Kljestan in an attacking position
For the second straight game Landon Donovan, the USMNT all-time leading scorer did not start for the Stars and Stripes.
After last week's shocking loss to Panama in group play, the US entered the game with a more focused approach.
Panama was athletic and played tough defense but the United States had the best chance of the first half in the 25th minute when he took a cross from Cherundolo and headed down off the ground and then off the post.
In the second half, the game would open up with more offense for both teams.
Donovan entered the game at the start of the second half for Kljestan and Freddy Adu came on for Juan Agudelo in the 67th minute.
Panama had their best chance of the game in the 70th minute when Armando Cooper took a pass on the left side of the box and was able to cut and fire at shot that Howard was able to deflect over the bar.
The US finally broke the deadlock in the 76th minute Adu collected a pass in his own half and then sent a beautiful long pass down the left side that gave Donovan a chance to run onto it with space. Donovan moved into the box and hit a low driving cross that found Dempsey at the back post who was able to slide it home with his left foot to give the US a 1-0 lead.
For Dempsey it was his 22nd goal for the USMNT and his third of this Gold Cup.
For the last 13 minutes, the US played strong defense with Panama's best chances coming on shots from distance and long balls into the box.
The United States has now advanced to its fourth straight Gold Cup finals where they will face Mexico for the third straight final.
Mexico is the defending champion after winning in 2009 with a 5-0 defeat over a US team consisting of mostly reserves.
In 2007, the US defeated Mexico 2-1 in the finals in Chicago when Benny Feilhaber scored one of the most amazing goals in the history of US Soccer with a volley from 25 yards.
Like the 2007 tournament, the winner of Saturday night's final will win an invitation to play in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.