The United States take a 10-match winning streak into the Gold Cup final against Panama. Unfortunately, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann won't be on the sidelines as the team looks to capture the title.
It didn't take long for the Americans to become established as the tournament favorites. A dominating run in group play combined with struggles by Mexico made it their title to lose. So far, they have lived up to the billing.
Panama should be a formidable foe for the United States in the championship match. The Canaleros haven't allowed more than one goal in any tournament game, and a similar defensive effort will be essential if they want to pull off the upset.
Let's take a glance at all the vital viewing information for the clash, followed by a preview and a prediction for which national team will win the Gold Cup title.
Where: Soldier Field in Chicago
When: Sunday, July 28, at 4 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go
These two teams played in the 2005 final, and the United States won on penalty kicks after 120 scoreless minutes. Even though Panama fell just short, they would likely accept a similar match this time around and hope for a better result in penalties.
That's because the American attack has been terrific throughout the tournament. Led by a resurgent Landon Donovan, they have scored 19 goals in five matches, including three in their semifinal triumph over a defensive-minded Honduras squad.
Knowing opponents would attempt to put as many players as possible behind the ball, the U.S. have responded with an extremely dangerous, up-tempo attack. It's worked to perfection, with Donovan, Chris Wondolowski and, more recently, Eddie Johnson among the offensive stars.
While that trio has provided the finishing touch on 12 of the 19 goals, the Americans' depth is what stands out most about their journey to the final. Numerous players have stepped up along the way, giving Klinsmann some decisions to make moving forward when the first-team squad reunites.
The game plan should remain the same, even though Klinsmann won't be on the sidelines. Expect the United States to push forward to put consistent pressure on the Panama defenders. If the Americans spend enough time in the final third, they will eventually break down the defensive wall.
Although Panama will lean heavily on their back line, there's reason for optimism. The team's forward duo, Blas Perez and Gabriel Torres, gives it serious firepower on the counterattack. They represent a challenge on a level the United States haven't yet faced in the tournament.
The perfect scenario for Panama would be scoring early on a counter so they could focus completely on the defensive end. The slower the pace, the better the Canaleros' chances of ending the United States' impressive winning streak.
Roman Torres will lead the defensive effort for Panama. The central defender has been terrific during the knockout stages, even scoring the winning goal in the semifinal victory over Mexico. He'll need another big match in the final.
All told, it's hard to imagine the Americans scoring another blowout victory. Panama are in good form and have enough talent to put up a serious fight. That said, the United States should be able to squeak out a narrow victory to cap a successful tournament run.
Prediction: United States 2, Panama 1