USMNT Stars Who Must Deliver in 2013 Gold Cup Final vs. Panama

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USMNT Stars Who Must Deliver in 2013 Gold Cup Final vs. Panama
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The United States men's national team will take aim at its fifth CONCACAF Gold Cup title on Sunday when it squares off against Panama in Chicago.

The two nations last met on such a stage in 2005, when the Americans' nerves won out in a dramatic penalty shootout. Panama is making its first appearance in the Gold Cup final since that heartbreaking day.

But despite having not yet been beaten, Los Canaleros won't be the favorites to win this weekend. The United States squad, which features a handful of notable names, will carry that burden.

In that spirit, let's highlight three stars who must deliver for the Stars and Stripes this weekend.

 

Landon Donovan, F

No player will be talked about more ahead of Sunday's Gold Cup final than U.S. men's national team legend Landon Donovan.

The country's all-time leading-goal scorer and assist man, Donovan has built a legacy off of his impressive play on the international stage. Even at 31, the dynamic forward is still lighting it up, having scored a tournament-leading five goals in five starts this summer, per ESPN Stats & Info:

But Donovan's work can't be finished just yet if the Americans hope to lift the Gold Cup crown for the first time since 2007. 

The U.S.'s most dangerous player will need to be just that on Sunday. Even if he doesn't score, the importance of Donovan's presence in attacking situations can't be overstated. Panama's defense has no choice but to respect his passing prowess and of course his finishing ability in the final third.

 

Stuart Holden, M

Stability in midfield has been a huge key to the U.S.'s success in the Gold Cup this summer. Although many American supporters have had to learn about some new names and faces in midfield, a familiar one has been Stuart Holden.

The 27-year-old has appeared in more than 20 matches for the senior national team since 2009 and has brought a creative influence to the squad over that time.

Holden has appeared in three of the U.S.'s five Gold Cup matches this July, scoring against Belize in the group stage. But Jurgen Klinsmann won't be looking for Holden to score goals against Panama. Instead, Klinsmann will be expecting the versatile player to link up with the U.S. forwards and put some dangerous balls into the box.

Holden's technique and experience on the international stage will be critical for the Americans this weekend.

 

DaMarcus Beasley, D

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Despite often being overshadowed by Landon Donovan, veteran DaMarcus Beasley has had a stellar career with the U.S. men's national team over the past decade-plus.

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After receiving the captain's arm band from Klinsmann earlier this month, Beasley has lived up to his new status, starring at left back and helping the Americans' defense excel to the tune of just three goals conceded in the four matches he's started in.

Beasley has had an opportunity to showcase his versatility in the new role as well and will need to bring his experience and poise with him into Sunday's final.

The 31-year-old has appeared in over 100 matches for the U.S. That said, his calming influence at the back will be key against Panama.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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