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USA reaches final with 1-0 win over Panama

USA Panama 2 (Getty Images)



HOUSTON, Texas – In the end, the U.S. men's national team got the last laugh against Panama.

The United States got vengeance for its group stage loss to Panama, defeating Los Canaleros, 1-0, in the first match of a semifinal doubleheader at Reliant Stadium on Wednesday night. Clint Dempsey scored the winner in a match that saw the U.S. team reach its fourth consecutive Gold Cup final.

"A really good team effort. A hard game for sure," said head coach Bob Bradley. "In all ways, I thought the mentality of the group (was) looking for ways to win. In the first half, I thought in stretches we had pretty good rhythm with the ball. … Defensively, they're solid and I felt we put a very good play together to score a great goal."

The Americans scored through a 77th-minute goal from Clint Dempsey after substitutes Freddy Adu and Landon Donovan combined to breakdown a tough Panama defense. Adu layed off a through ball to Donovan on the right flank before Donovan hit a low cross to Dempsey, who finished from close range with ease.

"We got out of our end well. The key passes I think between Michael (Bradley), Alejando (Bedoya), Freddy, all did a good job to get out of pressure," said Donovan, who started his second consecutive match on the bench despite being healthy. "I made a run forward, I wasn't sure that Freddy saw me but he played a great ball.

"My first thought was to hit it first time to Clint. I saw the defender back off so I wanted to be aggressive. I ran at him, Clint and I made eye contact and I knew if it was going to get there I had to hit it hard. I hit it hard and Clint made a great play to get his foot on it."

The Americans, who were without injured Jozy Altidore, deployed the same 4-2-3-1 formation it used against Jamaica. As a result, the U.S. team dominated most of the possession from the opening whistle, but had trouble creating clear looks on goal.

The U.S. team came closest to going ahead in a rather uneventful first half in the 25th minute, but Juan Agudelo's headed effort off a Steve Cherundolo cross hit the near post.

"It was kind of like the same tactics," said Eric Lichaj. "(Bob Bradley) showed us some video on Panama, what each player is like, their tendencies. We knew what we were doing on the get go."

With Felipe Baloy and the rest Panamanian back line defending aggressively and compactly, Bob Bradley inserted Donovan at halftime for Sacha Kljestan. Donovan was quiet during the opening minutes of his cameo, as Panama began to control the better and create opportunities.

In the 61st minute, Panama had a near chance as a cross from Nelson Barahona almost found a streaking Alberto Quintero but Quintero couldn't reach the ball.

The Panamanians came closer nine minutes later when Armando Cooper hit a shot that Tim Howard got a fingertip on to force a corner.

"The second half got harder," said Bob Bradley. "Panama did a good job of keeping things very tight. Now you have to look for different ways to win the game."

To do that, Bradley turned to one of the guys who had yet to play in this tournament. Bradley replaced Agudelo with Adu in the 66th minute, and Adu made an impact almost immediately. The 22-year-old midfielder threatened defenders with his dribbling moves and sharp passing, and he helped the U.S. team take the lead 11 minutes after entering with a precise through ball that helped set up Dempsey's third goal of the tournament.

"I was just relieved because the way the game was going it seemed like it was going to go on forever, maybe into extra time," said Lichaj of what he felt when he saw Dempsey score. "I was really relieved."

The United States fought off the desperate Panamanians for the final 13 minutes of regulation, earning payback, its third straight shutout victory and a berth in the final of the tournament.

"I think we showed our quality in being able to grind out a result even if it wasn't our best game and we now find ourselves in the final with a chance to win it," said Dempsey.

The Americans will face the winner of Mexico-Honduras in the final on June 25 at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles, California.


What do you think of the United States' 1-0 victory? Who impressed/disappointed you? Do you see the Americans winning the final with the way they're playing?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. “I’m not sure why people are so negative about this team… We have Never just walked through concacaf tournaments or qualifying, the teams are always scrappy, have underrated talent, and usually put max effort into playing the US.”

    This is probably the first Gold Cup for 60% of the US fans posting on this site.

  2. “Howard is no Brad Friedel”

    We’re talking about the national team here, right?

    Tim Howard 35 wins 64 appearances
    Brad Friedel 27 wins 82 appearances

    And the US plays much tougher friendlies now.

  3. Um, okay Max. I know you’re extremely knowledgeable and all, but I can’t help but wonder how such a terrible player could have led (yes, led–he’s their captain) Hannover to 4th place in the Bundesliga last season. Maybe the other 17 coaches in the German top flight just don’t have your amazing skills of perception, and it never occurred to them to attack down the left. Or maybe no one playing professionally in Germany has a left foot.

    I won’t comment about this game in particular, because you’re speaking of his play in general. He has been very consistent for the US, and has often been a threat in offense with his crossing. As one other commenter noted, perhaps sending balls (high floaters, at that) against Panama’s tall defenders wasn’t the best tactic. Kind of like Spain v. USA in 2009.

    Ultimately, I find it odd (but funny) that people here will slam the US for “only” beating Panama 1-0, and talk about how Mexico will destroy us in the final, as though tying Honduras 0-0 in regulation was somehow much more impressive. I’m not shouting out that the US will win; I think it will be a very exciting game and I expect to watch it frozen in place with my heart in my throat; I just don’t understand why people seem to only be happy trashing the US.

  4. I find it interesting that in your comparison of Dempsey and Hernandez you dismiss Dempsey as a “right place right time” goal scorer. It’s odd because, as Detroit! said, what’s wrong with that, what more would you want? Even more, though, is the fact that “right place right time” is exactly what I think Hernandez is, much more than Dempsey. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Hernandez create a goal on his own; rather, he seems phenomenally good at riding the offside line until the pass is made, then positioning himself perfectly to meet the cross, through-ball, rebound or errant clearance and precisely slotting it in. That’s an amazing talent, but it’s not lethal; if there’s no service, Chicharito is nothing. I wouldn’t say that about Dempsey.

    Also, I know your comments were made before the conclusion of Mexico-Honduras, actually only about halfway through the first half, but I think it was quite clear that Mexico were not invincible. Very good, yes, but not invincible. I hope to see an exciting game.

  5. I thought Michael Bradley had his worst game of the tournament last night. He repeatedly held onto the ball way too long. He barely completed any passes forward and passed on taking a shot you have to take after some brilliant work from Adu.

    I hope MB got that out of his system. We need him to be way more decisive against Mexico. I read a rating on another website that put him at a 7.0. Personally, I thought he should have been about a 4 maybe a 5 because of his defense. Anybody else agree? I didn’t see to many complaints about him in this thread.

  6. I didn’t realize it before the game but I did while he was sitting on his a@@ in our eighteen yard box yapping at anybody who would listen and even those that wouldn’t.

  7. Not really, I don’t think Bizzy is right. Adu has neglected his defensive resposibilities in the past. He has forced the issue too many times in the past. He was and is still a very young player, with lots of Hubris. I don’t think somebody needs to be “shut up” because they have been critical of Adu’s performance/decision making in the past. Adu has not been vindicated. He simply is maturing (hopefully!!!).

    Apparently Bob Bradley is included in the “shut up” class because he hadn’t selected Adu for from what I see, the reasons I noted above, plus other reasons that Bob hasn’t shared with me since I don’t know Bob.

  8. You can’t blame that entire sequence (dribbling across the middle) on Adu. Only about 85% of it. He ran into his own teammate (can’t remember who it was) ho had basically collected the ball. Had that player not collected it Adu might have been able to push thru to further the attack.

    The more disciplined thing for him to have done there was to allow his teammate to make a pass back to maintain possession.

  9. Timmy did make a finger tip save in the second half that was bound for goal. Panama did look more dangerous in the second half. Their defense stifled young Agudelo.

    Though to be honest, I thought Juan didn’t get a single call from the ref when Roman repeatedly hit him, kind of the way Shaq used to bang into defenders in basketball to clear space. It was like a foul, but not really sure, over and over again.

  10. Pretty sure Jones did not play against Turkey, that was in the run-up to the World Cup and he was injured and not on the roster. Actually I’m not even sure he had filed his switch with FIFA yet….

  11. Oops, responded to the wrong comment:
    Well said.

    Yeah they are merely beating CONCACAF teams, but those are the only teams they can beat in a CONCACAF tournament!
    This is like commenting in a U-17 World Cup thread “who cares they’re only 17 year olds”.
    Well then GTFO!

  12. Well said.

    Yeah they are merely beating CONCACAF teams, but those are the only teams they can beat in a CONCACAF tournament!
    This is like commenting in a U-17 World Cup thread “who cares they’re only 17 year olds”.
    Well then GTFO!

  13. @Detroit,

    Jozy is simply not the kind of striker to carry the U.S. to the next level, and Dempsey isnt suited to be the lone target up top, which was my point. Yes, obviously Dempsey scores goals, but hes more of a midfielder than a striker. Jozys first touch is often poor, and he doesnt turn or navigate well in tight traffic. If you carefully pay attention to my post, youll read that my main criticism was of Altidore and not Dempsey.

    The U.S. sorely misses a guy like McBride, which was what I was trying to say. And yes, if we have scoured and this is the result, then more scouring needs to be done…

  14. The US offensive tactics were wrong. They insisted on crossing high balls into the box for Panama’s tall and athletic defenders to knock out. If Donovan had put the ball in the air CD doesn’t score. The US doesn’t have a ‘half-court’ offense where they can attack up the middle and break down a defense with short passes on the ground. And if you’re going to play with just one forward, it can not be Agudelo. Not yet. Agudelo is best playing off another forward right now. CD should have been on top from the beginning. Panama is a very beatable team, we made them look good by showing little imagination on offense. What Altidore does better than actually scoring is those sharp passes in the box from the side for the forwards to finish. If you’re going to overload the midfield to control possession and get outshot 9-6 by a team missing their top scorer, you must re-think your approach.

  15. SuperTonto:

    Mexico outplayed? Granted It was not Mexico’s best game against a very tough opponent who should’ve been two man down for the criminal challenge on Guardado and Juarez period!
    If you don’t think this version of Mexico is good let me tell you, Mexico hadn’t beaten Honduras outside of Azteca in 13 years! Since Blanco scored two against them in the 98 Gold Cup!

    What Panama is a soccer superpower?

    De Nigris, Moreno, Marquez are taller than Donovan, Adu, Bocanegra, Bedoya, Lichaj, Cherundolo and same height as Jones and Agudelo! And the absent “Maza” is taller than everyone except Goodson!
    Only Howard, Onyewu and Goodson are taller than those first two!

    Everytime someone who knows NOTHING about the game and uses height and muscle volume as an argument I say three words-

    Messi, Iniesta Xavi!!!

    Estas ardido buey!

  16. I love Agudelo. Think he’s got a bright future. But right now, as he really better than a Conor Casey or a Herculez Gomez? I have only followed the Nats for a couple of years, so I don’t remember exactly how Conor Casey played for us, just was wondering.

  17. Well said, but on the Ives part he’s American and writing for an American audience of course he going to always praise an average US player, it’s what he’s paid to do. He will defend those guys like they are family, just look at how much he defended Jones on his dive, you don’t see Grant Wahl doing that. He did the same thing on the Bedoya dive during his running commentary, it just his American bias in him.

  18. Apart from the Adu hype, given that there are two sides to every successful pass, let’s ask who (in the USMNT pool) other than Donovan could have collected that pass from Adu, and made the sublime feed to CD23 for that goal?

  19. Please, always complaining like a little girl!

    Jones celebrating by saluting military style is ok, but De Nigris Karate kick is not.

    Mexico DOS Honduras CERO!!!

    Go cry some more!!!

  20. And also, Sacha started in place of Landon Donovan, so Adu wasn’t going to be taking his place. Adu came in for Agudelo, who he’s also not going to start over.

  21. Well said, indeed, but please don’t “copy it and paste on as a reply to every post on this thread” until you’ve changed “impetuous” to “impetus”. 🙂

  22. LOL

    Under no circumstances did Adu deserve to start or come in much earlier than he did. He played a good shift and had some very good plays, but he also gave the ball away cheaply in the middle of the field that almost led to a goal.

    Sacha was very solid, kept the ball moving and didn’t get caught dribbling the ball around.

  23. Every confederation has its good teams and weak teams. The Gold Cup final is a big deal becuase you can’t play in bigger tournaments without being the best in you confederation. If the Gold Cup isn’t a big enough tournament for you then why are you even bothering to read about it. The next World Cup is in 2014, you can check back then.


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