The United States men's national soccer team defeated Panama 1-0 in a de facto Group D title game in the 2019 Gold Cup at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, on Wednesday.
After each squad won its first two matches of the tournament, this clash would determine the final standings for Group D, with positioning in the quarterfinals at stake. Thanks to a strong edge in goal differential, Team USA entered play with the ability to wrap up first place with a draw or a victory.
Below is a look at the latest tournament action.
Group D Standings
United States 3-0-0, 9 pts, +11 goal differential
Panama 2-0-1, 6 pts, +3 goal differential
Guyana 0-1-2, 1 pt, -6 goal differential
Trinidad and Tobago 0-1-2, 1 pt, -8 goal differential
With Group D on the line, neither team could come up with many quality looks early on in what turned out to be a fairly uneventful first half. But when tested, both the United States' Sean Johnson and Panama's Jose Calderon proved to be up to the task.
It wasn't until the 21st minute that either team had much of a scoring opportunity. While Jozy Altidore managed a clean look, he was unable to beat Calderon:
That would prove to be the closest either team would come to scoring in the first half, though there were a few other looks as well.
Just like in the first half, the second half began in quiet fashion. Looking to spark his team, United States coach Gregg Berhalter inserted Christian Pulisic in the 65th minute...and the offense instantly came to life.
On the ensuing corner kick, Altidore got USMNT on the board with a bicycle kick:
The goal was the United States' 11th of the tournament, tying the program's Gold Cup record:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
The USMNT wins Gold Cup Group D, thanks to Jozy Altidore's 42nd career goal for the USA. The 11 goals scored by Team USA in group play match their most in a single Gold Cup group stage (also had 11 in 2013). The US will face Cinderella story Curaçao in the quarterfinals. https://t.co/C85IkwlBz7
That would prove to be the game's only goal—and it was enough to get the United States the points it needed to wrap up the victory.
On a night where the United States only needed a draw, Berhalter elected not to start Pulisic, Gyasi Zardes or Zack Steffen. While it may not have been the prettiest of victories, the team found a way to get the job done.
Perhaps most importantly, Altidore's standout performance did not go unnoticed:
Having Altidore play at a high level could be the key to Team USA defending its title and winning its third crown in its last four attempts.
Both teams are on to the quarterfinals, where they will each be back in action Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Panama will face Jamaica at 5:30 p.m. ET, and the United States will take on Curacao at 8:30 p.m. ET.