Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
CHICAGO– It has been six years since the last time the U.S. Men’s National Team lifted the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and while that might not seem like that long, a pair of brutal losses to Mexico in the 2009 and 2011 finals made that drought feel even worse.
Perhaps that is why the celebration at Soldier Field on Sunday, the same venue where the U.S. last won the Gold Cup, felt so festive. Even more lively than the celebrations here in 2007 (in large part because the majority of the fans in Soldier Field back then were rooting for Mexico).
On this day, with Mexico already out of the tournament, the crowd filling Soldier Field was largely American, and they watched their U.S. team finish off an impressive Gold Cup with a hard-earned victory against a Panama side that was always going to make things difficult.
It took 68 minutes to find a goal, with Alejandro Bedoya sending in a pass that went past Landon Donovan and looked to be heading toward goal before Brek Shea buried the chance to provide the winning goal for the U.S. and help lead the Americans to their record 11th-straight win and fifth Gold Cup title.
The Americans were in control for much of the match, but struggled to break through in the final third against a stingy Panamanian defense. The U.S. suffered an early blow as starter Stuart Holden was forced to leave the match in the 19th minute after suffering a strained right knee. The injury was especially worrisome given Holden’s track record with leg injuries.
His departure created an opportunity for Mix Diskerud and the Norwegian-born midfielder took full advantage, turning in a strong showing in midfield to help the Americans control the action and keep Panama at bay.
The U.S. delivered three times more completed passes than Panama and managed three shots on goals to Panama’s zero.
Though Panama never truly tested Rimando, they did push the U.S. defense at times in the first half, but never really threatened near the goal.
The U.S. was in a similar position, enjoying long spells of possession, but failing to really threaten Jaime Penedo before Shea’s winning goal.
The victory marked the fifth straight Gold Cup the Americans have beaten Panama in the knockout rounds, and marked their second victory in the finals over Panama (2005 being the other).
Landon Donovan was awarded the Golden Ball as the Tournament MVP. An easy choice after a dominating tournament that saw him re-establish himself as a force on the U.S. team.
The victory ensures the U.S. a place in the 2015 Confederations Cup play-in match, which will be against the winner of the 2015 Gold Cup. If the Americans win the 2015 Gold Cup, then they will automatically qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup.
What did you think of the match? Who impressed you the most? Were you surprised by the turnout for the match?
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