2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship United States vs Panama

2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship
United States vs Panama
Sunday, July 28, 2013, 4:00 pm Eastern, TV: Fox, Univison
Soldier Field – Chicago, Illinois
All odds courtesy of Bookmaker
Betting Line: USA -1 -150 / Panama +1 +120
Total: Over 2 1/2 -125 / Under 2 1/2 -105
Three Way Line: Panama +665 / USA -275 / Draw +325
(All three wagers include regulation and stoppage time only, not extra time or shootout)

The US looks to win the CONCACAF Gold Cup as they take on Panama in Sunday's Championship.
The US looks to win the CONCACAF Gold Cup as they take on Panama in Sunday’s Championship.

Many thought it was a foregone conclusion that the United States and Mexico and would meet in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship for the third straight time. Despite both teams sending lesser squads to the tournament, they were still considered to be head and shoulders above the other 10 teams in the field. But as the saying goes, that’s why they play the games.

The US team kept up their end of the bargain in impressive fashion, extending their club record winning streak to 10 games in the process. The Stars and Stripes have outscored their opponents by 15 goals so far in their 5 games in the tournament. The Americans have advanced to the Finals of this event 5 straight times.

However, Panama seemingly came out of nowhere to spoil the planned Mexico-US showdown. Panama is also unbeaten but they do have a scoreless draw against Canada on the record. Merea Roja has a pair of 2-1 wins over the two time defending champion Mexico so far in the tournament including one in Wednesday’s semifinals.

The United States won Group C with a perfect 3-0 record. USA is the only unbeaten and untied team left in the tournament. The Stars and Stripes beat Belize 6-1, Cuba 4-1, and Costa Rica 1-0 on a goal from Brek Shea at the 81st minute.

In the quarterfinals, the USA would go on to crush El Salvador last Sunday afternoon in Baltimore 5-1. Because of the large population of Salvadorans in the Baltimore-Washington area, it was almost like a road game for team USA. The United States took  an early 2-0 lead but a questionable foul was called against US captain DeMarcus Beasley was called in the box giving El Salvador a late penalty kick to make it 2-1 at halftime. The US would dominate in the second half scoring three goals. Landon Donovan scored or assisted on all 5 US goals.

In Wednesday’s semifinals the United States beat Honduras 3-1 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. As is usually the case when you place real grass over artificial turf, the pitch was in terrible shape with clumps of sod coming up throughout the game. The US would take a 2-0 halftime lead with goals by Eddie Johnson at 11 minutes and Landon Donovan at 27 minutes. Honduras would get back into the game on a header by Nary Medina at 52 minutes, but Donovan would slam the door with his fifth goal of the tournament a minuter later. Neither team would score for the rest of the game. The US outshot Honduras 18-11.

At 87 minutes, US coach Jurgen Klinsmann slammed the ball to the ground in frustration because of some hard fouls against his players that weren’t called. He was tossed from the game.  CONCACAF officials ruled Friday that Klinsmann would be suspended for the championship game for showing dissent of the officials. Top US assistant Martin Vazquez will coach the team Sunday.

Panama won Group A with 7 points. After the Mexico win to open group play, Panama beat Martinique 1-0 and played Canada to a 0-0 draw. Panama rested most of their starters in the Canada game after Marea Rojo had already qualified for the knockout stage.

Panama crushed Cuba 6-1 in the quarterfinals in Atlanta. Forwards Blas Perez and Manuel Torres each scored 2 goals for Panama. Cuba took a 1-0 lead on a penalty kick at 21 minutes. Panama evened it up on a penalty kick of their own from Torres 4 minutes later. Cuba played a man down after a red card to forward Ariel Martinez Gonzales  at 58 minutes.

In the rematch Wednesday against Mexico, also in Arlington, many thought Mexico would avenge the loss in the group stage and right the ship. Panama had other ideas though. They would take an early 1-0 lead on a goal from Perez at 13 minutes. Luis Montes would get the equalizer for Mexico at 26 minutes on a header. Ramon Torres would give Panama the 2-1 lead on a header at 60 minutes. Mexico outshot Panama 15-10 but couldn’t get another shot past Panama goalkeeper Jamie Penedo.

Panama is managed by Julio Cesar Dely Valdes. He will employ a 4-4-2 attack led by Perez and Torres. Torres has 5 goals in the tournament so far. Perez missed the first game against Mexico as he was playing for the MLS’s FC Dallas.

Klinsmann’s squad is battling some injuries to key players.  Defender Oguchi Onyewu (ankle) and attacker Herculez Gomez (knee) were both left off the roster for the Knockout round.  Forward Jack McInerney and defender Corey Ashe were also left off the roster. Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Eddie Johnson, and Alan Gordon replaced them. Johnson scored a goal on a beautiful header just seconds after coming in to replace Chris Wondolowski in the second half of the El Salvador rout in addition to the goal he scored against Honduras.

However, Klinsmann’s 4-4-2 attack still has a ton of firepower. Striker Wondolowski has 5 goals in the tournament including a hat trick in the Belize game. The great Landon Donovan has 56 goals and 56 assists in his career for the national team. He  has 5 goals in the Gold Cup. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando allowed one goal in each of the blowout wins over Belize, Cuba, El Salvador and Honduras. He rested in the Costa Rica game as the United States had already advanced to the knockout round. Sean Johnson kept a clean sheet in that game, but Rimando is the top keeper on the squad.

The United States leads the series 10-1-1 all time against Panama. The lone Panama win came in the group stage of the 2001 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The US has beaten Panama 3 straight times since then, including a 2-0 win in Seattle last month in World Cup qualifying. The US beat Panama in penalty kicks in the 2005 Gold Cup Championship game, the only previous time Panama advanced this far.

The loss of Klinsmann for this match hurts, certainly but as locked in as Johnson, Donovan, and Wondolowski are right now it might not matter. However, Panama will not roll over and they are a very dangerous squad with Perez and Torres. The consensus is Panama really has nothing to lose as they aren’t supposed to be here anyway. Don’t tell that to them though as they certainly feel they belong here. The US wins a tight one 2-1 on a late goal from Donovan.


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