Why the United States Will Beat Panama to Reach the Gold Cup Final
In their second group stage match of the Gold Cup on June 11, the United States national team lost 2-1 to Panama. This loss was the first-ever group stage loss for the United States in the Gold Cup in 26 matches.
After the loss, there were calls for coach Bob Bradley to be fired from his job and people were speculating that the United States were going to fall out of the Gold Cup in either the group stage or in the quarterfinals.
However, a convincing 1-0 win over Guadeloupe allowed the United States to advance onto the quarterfinals, where an American side with Jozy Altidore leaving early with an injury and Landon Donovan starting the match on the bench, convincingly defeated a strong Jamaican side.
With the win, the U.S. will now face the same Panamanian side that beat the Americans just a week and a half before.
Since their win over the United States, Panama have been unimpressive. This started with a 1-1 draw against Canada in which Panama only scored the tying goal after a calamitous scene inside of the penalty box allowed for the tying goal to be scored in stoppage time.
In the quarterfinals, Panama played what has to be the most exciting match of the Gold Cup so far against El Salvador.
Panama were only able to equalize and force extra time after a disputed goal that initially did not appear to cross the whole of the goal line, and were able to win on penalties 5-4.
Now we will get to see a great matchup tonight between these two sides, but going into this matchup, the United States must be considered the favorite to reach the Gold Cup final.
The first reason why I am saying this is due to the form of the Americans since their 2-1 defeat. The United States played a fantastic match on Sunday against Jamaica and have continued to create some amazing chances to score.
Even though lots of these great chances did not go in, the U.S. have players that are talented enough that it becomes obvious that they will eventually finish these chances.
Meanwhile on the American defense, the addition of Eric Lichaj has been a perfect move. Lichaj has played great during the last two matches and has been a real difference-maker in the back.
But one of the biggest reasons why the U.S. has played this well recently comes in the form of manager Bob Bradley and the confidence he has shown during the last two matches.
Bradley has been known for making some bizarre choices in the past, but starting Sacha Kljestan, benching Landon Donovan and moving to a 4-2-3-1 formation all worked to perfection against Jamaica.
Bradley's confidence also appeared to rub off on his players in what could easily be his final tournament with the U.S. national team.
Meanwhile, when you take a look at Panama, they will have a lot going against them.
Will the United States reach the Gold Cup final?
For starters, Panama will be without Blas Pérez because of a red card that he received in the match against El Salvador. Pérez has scored 21 goals for Panama in 37 matches and was a key member of the Panamanian squad throughout this tournament.
Panama also will have a disadvantage of being a more tired side because of the thrilling match they completed against El Salvador.
But probably their biggest disadvantage is the fact that they already beat the United States.
Since their loss to Panama, the United States have been extremely motivated, and at the level that they are playing at right now, the only nation in CONCACAF that can beat them is Mexico.
As long as the United States play like they did against Guadeloupe and Jamaica, there should be no doubt that they will advance onto the Gold Cup final against the winner of Honduras and Mexico.
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