A second half goal from substitute Brek Shea propelled the United States to a 1-0 victory over Panama to win the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The United States’ challenging triumph at Soldiers Field marks their 5th Gold Cup title in history, with successful campaigns in 1991, 2002, 2005, and 2007 as well. Another victory for the Americans extends their winning steak to a record 11 games, while tying their home winning streak of 10 matches.
Landon Donovan was unsurprisingly awarded the tournament MVP, with an astonishing five goals and seven assists that was crucial to the United States’ title win. In fact, the winning goal against Panama would have been his had Brek Shea not tipped it in just inches before the goal-line. For the man who was fighting for a place in the USA’s 2014 World Cup roster just weeks ago, it looks as though the American legend has impressed Jurgen Klinsmann and fans of the USMNT after his return to football.
Brek Shea scored the only goal of a match after tipping in a low shot from Donovan just 42 seconds after being subbed in. This marks his second international goal for the USA, the first of which was scored against Costa Rica in the group stages of the tournament. Meanwhile, a torn ACL suffered by Bolton Wanderers’ Stuart Holden early into the match will leave him out of action for a while.
Jurgen Klinsmann was forced to watch the match from a stadium suite rather than on the pitch as a result of a one-game suspension picked up in their previous match against Honduras. Unhappy with a decision made by the referee on the 87th minute, Klinsmann threw the ball at him in a “violent” manner at the semifinal match. As a result, the CONCACAF disciplinary committee dismissed him for the remainder of the match, which resulted in an automatic suspension from the Gold Cup Final.
A replay to the 2005 Gold Cup Final – which saw the United States triumph over Panama after a scoreless game went on to penalties – this would be no easy match for the Americans. But even without Klinsmann to guide them from the sidelines and a boost of confidence for the Panamanians after defeating Mexico, a well-played match for the American crowned them Gold Cup Champions for the first time since 2007.
A fairly uneventful first half saw shots peppered at both ends of the pitch. Panama came on with the first decent chance of the match as Michael Parkhurst cleared a cross from Gabriel Gomez that was destined to meet Roman Torres’ header. Donovan had a chance to open the scoring on the 17th minute when a a mix up between two Panamanian defenders trying to clear the ball saw the ball at his feet. With a perfect shot from six-yards out, Quintero got to the ball first and cleared it out for a corner.
Later into the first half, Quintero whipped in a deadly cross to Gabriel Torres, who fell to the ground after Kyle Beckerman’s boot kicked the forward between his legs. On the 39th minute, a very accurate long pass from Beckerman found Alejandro Bedoya, who tricked the defenders and took a shot on goal that was blocked by Panama and eventually cleared out. Despite 77% possession for the Americans in the first half, it looked to be an even match with a well-organized American side constantly fighting the strong Panamanian defense and preventing sneaky counter-attacks.
As the second half began, Landon Donovan kicked a perfect free kick into the box that Clarence Goodson couldn’t keep on target. Donovan later made a run inside the box and his low cross clearly struck a Panamanian defender in the hand. A possibly intentional handball prevented a clear goal-scoring opportunity for the Americans, and Donovan was furious to see neither a penalty or card was given.
DaMarcus Beasley provided a cross to Donovan just minutes later, whose header sent the ball just wide of the left post and added to his frustration. Another accurate free kick from Landon Donovan sailed toward the box, but neither Corona or Bedoya got on the end of it. With the USA shooting more and more chances at the Panamanian goal, a goal before full time for the Americans was within reach.
The United States finally took the lead in the Gold Cup Final after a long string of a events saw Donovan knock the ball towards the net that Brek Shea struck in just to be sure. The play started off with Seattle Sounders striker Eddie Johnson, who played the ball down the left wing and crossed it into the box, only to be deflected outside the box to Parkhurst. The Augsburg center-back then played a through ball to Bedoya, who sent a cross to Donovan and kicked the ball past the keeper for Shea to tip in.
On the 70th minute, Shea crossed in another ball for Eddie Johnson to head in, but the shot went high of the crossbar. Donovan later played out a short corner to Beasley, who’s power strike sailed over the goal once again. On the counter attack, the USA’s inability to clear out a corner kick almost resulted in an equalizer, but Chen’s shot sailed wide.
The United States had a clear opportunity to double their lead when some passing from Donovan and Shea eventually found Eddie Johnson a few yards from goal, but the striker failed to direct the shot as it somehow flew over the bar. Panama continued applying pressure until the end of the match, but no equalizer was found, crowning the United States Gold Cup Champions with the final score of 1-0.
The Americans finished off their exciting Gold Cup campaign in style, and there was not much more they could improve on, outscoring their opponents 20-4. Landon Donovan started all six games for the USA and now has a record 18 goals in the tournament. In 2013, Donovan and Wondolowski of the United States as well as Gabriel Torres of Panama shared the award for top-scorer with five goals each.
With their Gold Cup triumph, the United States will now participate in a two-team playoff between the 2013 and 2015 Gold Cup Champions. The winner of this playoff will earn a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. In the case that USA win the 2015 Gold Cup as well, they will gain automatic entry into the Confederations Cup.