The United States capped off an incredible run at the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 1-0 victory over Panama in the tournament finale.
In six matches at the event, the team outscored its opponents 20-4 and had few struggles leading into the final. The win also gives the squad 11 wins in a row as it continues to prepare for the 2014 World Cup.
Panama was also playing well heading into the championship match, winning four of five, including two over Mexico. Additionally, the Americans had to compete without head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who was suspended for the match after being sent off in the semifinal against Honduras, per U.S. Soccer:
However, the United States did enough to secure the country's first Gold Cup title since 2007.
In the first half, Team USA had the clear advantage while controlling the majority of the possession. Unfortunately, the strong opposing defense prevented any legitimate scoring opportunities.
As Paul Carr of ESPN illustrated, the U.S. side had a tough time getting close to the net on offense:
Franco Panizo of MLSSoccer.com also credits the Panama defense with a strong first half:
The most notable occurrence in the first half was the injury to Stuart Holden. After missing out on almost three years of playing due to knee issues, he was removed from the match after this collision:
Major League Soccer later reported that the injury was a sprain, although his history gives reason to be concerned:
Holden was replaced by Mikkel Diskerud in the 23rd minute. The young player was not able to provide any more of a spark on offense, though, and the teams entered halftime 0-0.
There was a lot more excitement following intermission. The United States thought it had an opportunity to score with this apparent handball in the penalty box:
Much to the dismay of Klinsmann, who was watching from a luxury box, there was no call and the action continued.
Finally, in the 69th minute, Team USA got on the scoreboard. Alejandro Bedoya crossed the ball from the right side, which Landon Donovan missed as the ball continued toward the net. With no one in front of him, Brek Shea tapped the ball in—less than a minute after coming on as a substitution for Joe Corona:
Donovan was originally credited for the assist, but Ives Galarcep reports that it was later changed:
For the remaining minutes of the match, the United States continued to play strong enough defense to keep Panama off the scoreboard. In fact, the losing team did not have a single shot on goal.
After some scuffles late, the U.S. held on to win the trophy:
Thanks to his outstanding play over the course of the event, Donovan was named the best player:
Although some squads held out their strongest players in the tournament (including the U.S.), this is still a big victory to give the team confidence going forward.
Landon Donovan, United States: B+
Compared to the rest of his tournament, Donovan might not deserve any more than a C. He simply has given himself a higher standard, contributing to 12 goals.
Despite his lackluster performance, the veteran still deserves a solid score. He was always around the ball when something needed to be done and consistently made the right passes.
Although this was probably his worst performance of the tournament, Donovan still made an impact.
Brek Shea, United States: A-
There are some very different opinions concerning Brek Shea and his ability to contribute at the international level. In this match, he did enough to show that he is at least worthy of consideration for the team going forward.
His goal looked easy, but he made a great run to help make it happen. He was also solid throughout the rest of the match to keep the pressure on and maintain the lead. As Carr notes, this is an improvement over how he started:
The good news is that the 23-year-old winger still has plenty of time to improve.
Gabriel Torres, Panama: C-
Throughout the tournament, Gabriel Torres was the person Panama would look toward when it needed a goal. He had five scores in the tournament, including three from penalty shots.
Against the United States, though, he was virtually invisible, with few touches and almost no opportunities.
Panama needed someone to make plays, and Torres was nowhere to be found.
Blas Pérez, Panama: D
Blas Perez did not hear his name called for anything good during the match. He was called for eight fouls on the day, and it usually prevented Panama from sustaining any looks at the net.
The forward is one of the most important offensive players for his country, and the Panamanians will need a lot of production going forward. Unfortunately, he did nothing but hurt his team in this final.
Although the Gold Cup is now over, there is plenty of international football remaining in the summer. The United States has a friendly scheduled against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Aug. 14. The Americans will then continue World Cup qualifying on Sept. 6 with a road match against Costa Rica.
Panama will hope to regain its momentum on Sept. 6 as well, with a home match against Jamaica.
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