USA vs. Panama: Breaking Down 2013 Gold Cup Final in Chicago
Panama's 2-1 win over Mexico in the semifinals of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup on Wednesday presents the United States with a dangerous foe for this year's final.
While Panama is ranked No. 51 in the world by FIFA, the fact that Los Canaleros defeated No. 20 Mexico in both of their Gold Cup clashes after never defeating Mexico before speaks volumes.
Make no mistake about it, Panama will be a legitimate threat to the USA in Sunday's final of the 2013 Gold Cup in Chicago. Much like Honduras pressured the Americans early in their semifinal on Wednesday, Panama did the same against Mexico.
The difference was that Panama scored early against Mexico, while Honduras wasn't able to capitalize on its pressure against the USA.
That's not to say Panama will defeat the Americans in the final, of course.
As surprising as Panama has been in this Gold Cup, the Americans have played at an entirely different level than any other team in the tournament. Team USA soared to a 3-1 victory over Honduras, and it's about time we started giving the American side some credit.
Jurgen Klinsmann's squad hasn't faced much of a challenge so far, but you can't deny the ball movement, passing precision and ability to rise to the occasion of the Americans.
One noticeable thing down the stretch in the Panama-Mexico clash was that the Mexicans had several opportunities to score. That's not taking anything away from Panama, as goalkeeper Jaime Penedo may have saved the match with a finger-tip save off a ball from Mexico substitute Isaac Brizuela.
However, the fact of the matter is that the United States' offense is rolling. Even if the Americans find themselves desperate down the stretch in the final, I could still see them prevailing.
Who will win the 2013 Gold Cup?
You may remember the last time Panama faced the USA in the Gold Cup final. That was in 2005, when both sides were scoreless and the match was decided by penalty kicks, which the United States won.
While I don't exactly expect their 2013 Gold Cup final to be scoreless through regulation, it is going to be a hotly contested battle. The United States controlled possession for 55 percent of its semifinal match against Honduras, according to MLSSoccer.com. That was a vast difference from the Americans' 70 percent possession against El Salvador in the quarterfinals.
Panama showed against Mexico that it has the same ability as Honduras to pressure early. The difference in the final will be that USA will be able to overcome a deficit, even if Panama strikes first.
From Landon Donovan to Eddie Johnson to Alejandro Bedoya to Kyle Beckerman, the United States has something here, and it would frankly be a shock if the hosts didn't win the 2013 Gold Cup at this point.
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