United States Defeats Panama 1-0, Claims 2013 Gold Cup Title

Jonathan Daniel

The USA struggled to generate offense in the first half, but some adjustments and much needed subs, including Brek Shea who scored the winner off the bench, was enough to give the USA their first Gold Cup since 2007.

The United States Men's National Team defeated Panama 1-0 and claimed their 5th CONCACAF Gold Cup. Brek Shea scored the game winner, just 42 seconds after being subbed on, tapping home a Bedoya cross from point blank range in the 69th minute.

The USA was without head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who was suspended for the final after being dismissed from the technical area vs. Honduras in the semifinals. He watched the game from the skybox level. Assistants Andreas Hertzog and Martin Vazquez manned the sidelines for the US.

It was clearly not the best game of the tournament by any stretch. Panama seemed content to defend and take their chances on the counter. The USA was able to maintain almost 70% of the possession, but failed to generate a lot of threatening moments in the first half. Several of their efforts, either outright shots or crosses were blocked by the swarming Panamanian defense.

The USA was forced to make a change early on, after Stuart Holden went knee-to-knee with a Panamanian player. While his left knee made contact with the player, it was his right knee, the one that was injured vs. Manchester United two seasons ago that appeared to be injured. US Soccer announced that it was a sprain at halftime and that Holden would be reevaluated later.

In the second half, the USA again continued to put pressure on Panama, as DaMarcus Beasley sent in a great cross from the left wing in the 55th, but Donovan could only flash his header straight ahead and well wide of target.

In the 68th, Brek Shea entered the game for Joe Corona. Like Eddie Johnson off the bench vs. El Salvador, Shea would have an immediate impact on the scoresheet. But it took him 42 seconds, not 14 like Johnson.

A Michael Parkhurst overlap gave Alejandro Bedoya the space to send in a dangerous ball to the near post. Landon Donovan overran the ball, and it fell to Brek Shea who ran onto it and slammed the ball into the back off the net from the goal line. Despite the fact that the ball appeared to be heading for the side netting, Shea let little doubt as Panama's keeper Penedo and his defense could only appeal for an offside call that wasn't coming. After 70 minutes, the USA had their lead.

Panama would try to answer, but they instead only got more frustrated. Blas Perez committed several fouls down the stretch and the game considerably more chippy as Eddie Johnson and Brek Shea were both booked late along with Panama's Jairo Jimenez for late scuffles.

In the end, Eddie Johnson missed a chance from close range to put the game away, but instead flew his effort over the bar in the 84th. That would be the best chance of the late stages as the USA was able to weather the late efforts from Panama as they searched for an equalizer.

Aside from the telling advantage in possession, the USA had the advantage on shots, firing twelve in total. Panama had six shots, but half were blocked and the rest were off target. In the end, there was only one shot on target for the entire game - Brek Shea's winner.

For the USA, they capture their 5th CONCACAF Gold Cup and first since 2007. They also sit atop CONCACAF's World Cup qualifying standings, The Hex, and have reestablished themselves as the top team in the region. Panama's amazing run in this Gold Cup might have ended in a loss, but their experience from this tournament could springboard their qualifying efforts, they currently sit in 5th place, one point behind Honduras in fourth and two points behind Mexico in third.

Kyle Beckerman was named the man of the match for the final by CONCACAF. Landon Donovan claimed the Golden Ball as the best player in the 2013 Gold Cup. Donovan, Chris Wondolowski and Gabriel Torres of Panama shared the Golden Boot award, each scoring five goals. Panama's Jaime Penedo won the Best Goalkeeper for the second time in his career and Panama's team was awarded the Fair Play Award for the tournament.

US Soccer also brought back the four players who were replaced after the group stages, Jack McInerney, Herculez Gomez, Corey Ashe and Oguchi Onyewu to the final and medal ceremony.

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