The United States rolled through the 2013 Gold Cup en route to its fifth consecutive Gold Cup final, but if Panama’s recent performance is any indication, the Americans should be on upset alert.
Panama turned heads with a 2-1 victory over Mexico in the group stage of the CONCACAF tournament. It was a strong win, but few expected to see a repeat performance in the semifinals.
Shockingly enough, the Panamanian side couldn’t have come any closer to duplicating that performance in its 2-1 rematch win over El Tri on Wednesday night.
Mexico has its own problems to deal with following the loss, but none are Panama’s concern. With one match standing in the way of a Gold Cup championship, all eyes will be fixed on upending a tremendous United States team riding the momentum of a 10-match winning streak.
The United States men’s national team pulled off a decisive 3-1 victory over Honduras Wednesday evening, led by Landon Donovan and his two goals. Donovan—despite taking a four-plus-month respite from the USMNT—has been superb in the Gold Cup, making a strong case for consideration on the 2014 World Cup roster.
Panama and the United States faced off just once before in the Gold Cup final, that match coming in 2005 as the USMNT won in a 3-1 penalty shootout. As well as both sides have been playing in this tournament, fans should expect a similarly tight match with a thrilling finish.
Where: Soldier Field, Chicago
When: Sunday, July 28, at 4 p.m. ET
Streaming: Fox Soccer 2Go
Prediction: United States 2, Panama 1
Regardless of the final score, this match is shaping up to be a thrilling affair.
The United States has showed no signs of slowing recently, especially after a routine dismantling of Honduras Wednesday. With Donovan and Co. hitting its stride, Panama is going to be in for a difficult challenge.
But the Panamanians should be used to that by now. Widely considered an underdog in Group A, Panama roared through the group stage and punctuated its Gold Cup run with two massive wins over Mexico. Another performance like that could mean Panama’s first Gold Cup trophy.
The biggest story in this match will be the tremendous offensive play of the USMNT and Panama’s ability (or inability) to slow the likes of Donovan and Chris Wondolowski. The United States B-team hasn’t skipped a beat on the attack, leading the tournament in goals with 19 through five matches.
Panama was able to bottle up El Tri’s attack Wednesday, but Mexico hasn’t been all that successful in the final third of late, netting just 14 goals in its last 16 contests. If the Panamanians expect to see similar futility from the United States Sunday, they’ll be in for a rude awakening.
Panama is stout enough in the defensive third to keep this match close, but it doesn’t have an attack capable of outscoring the American side. Expect the United States to net an early goal and keep the pressure on throughout the match, edging out its challenger with a punctuating scoring strike in the final 15 minutes of the match.