Gold Cup Finals 2013: Players to Watch in USA vs. Panama Clash

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Gold Cup Finals 2013: Players to Watch in USA vs. Panama Clash
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The United States surged to a 3-1 victory over Honduras in the semifinals of the 2013 Gold Cup on Wednesday, while Panama defeated Mexico for the second time in the tournament, 2-1. 

It sets up an intriguing battle on Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. 

The last time the two teams met in the final of the Gold Cup was in 2005. USA won that battle off of penalty kicks after a scoreless regulation.

That being said, don't expect it to be scoreless through regulation on Sunday. The United States has scored a tournament-high 19 goals, while Panama ranks second with 11 goals.

Here are the players who figure to make a difference in the 2013 Gold Cup final. 

*Highlights courtesy of Fox Soccer

 

Landon Donovan, USA

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It seems like I'm always talking about Landon Donovan these days, but I don't care at this point. The 31-year-old has been downright excellent since being held out of USA's last string of World Cup qualifying matches by manager Jurgen Klinsmann. 

Donovan now has seven assists in the 2013 Gold Cup, leading the tournament in the category by five. He also has five goals, tied for the tournament lead.

Donovan assisted Eddie Johnson to start things off for the Americans in the 11th minute against Honduras, then connected on an assist from Alejandro Bedoya, then swung home an assist from Bedoya off a header from Clarence Goodson in the 53rd minute to put the match out of reach for the Hondurans.

Perhaps Klinsmann was right to allow chemistry to develop for the American side in the last string of World Cup qualifying matches for USA; perhaps he was wrong to keep Donovan out.

One thing's for sure: If Klinsmann holds Donovan off the pitch for the next slate of World Cup qualifying matches, that's when USA fans should start questioning the 48-year-old German.

 

Eddie Johnson, USA

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

I had Eddie Johnson as a player to watch before Wednesday's match, and the 29-year-old did not disappoint against Honduras.

Against El Salvador in the quarterfinals, Johnson scored just 14 minutes after being subbed in the second half. He then added an assist in just 30 minutes of play.

Against Honduras on Wednesday, Johnson scored the match's first goal, setting the tone for a 3-1 victory over the visitors.

After a surge by Chris Wondolowski early in the Gold Cup, Eddie Johnson has taken his place admirably.

 

Gabriel Torres, Panama

Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Gabriel Torres had five goals headed into Wednesday's match against Mexico. 

He added an assist off a corner kick at Cowboys Stadium.

It doesn't seem to matter where Torres is on the pitch, he always seems to come up with a big play. Quite simply, the 24-year-old midfielder knows how to make an impact. In four matches in the 2013 Gold Cup, he's posted two goals in two matches and posted at least a goal or an assist in every match.

Make no mistake about it, the Panamanians would not be where they are without Gabriel Torres.

 

Jaime Penedo, Panama

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo has allowed 0.75 goals per match in the 2013 Gold Cup, tied for second in the tournament. That includes a clean sheet against Canada.

Penedo's five saves on Wednesday against Mexico showed just how much of an impact the 31-year-old has made for Panama. More specifically, his finger-tip save off of Isaac Brizuela's clip in the 79th minute kept Panama's lead intact.

Given the way Penedo has protected the goal throughout the tournament, it's going to be a very exciting matchup against USA's explosive offense.

 

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