Twenty-one minutes in, Cuba had their dream start, an opening goal against Panama in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Gold Cup.
Just four minutes later, the lead was gone, and so was the composure that Cuba had channeled so well against Belize just a few days ago to even reach the knockout stage.
Gabriel Torres' double led Panama to a 6-1 quarterfinal victory over 10-man Cuba from Atlanta. Torres equalized from the penalty spot in the 25th after Mark Geiger judged Cuban defender Renay Malblanche blocked a shot with his arm. Replays showed Malblanche turning as the shot came in, but with his forearm extended from his body, Geiger showed no hesitation pointing to the spot. Torres fired past Odelin Molina (5 saves), who guessed correctly to his right, who could not catch up to the powerfully struck penalty.
It would not get better for Cuba as Torres struck again in the 38th, volleying home a headed pass from Blas Perez. The goal tied Torres with USA's Chris Wondolowski for a tournament leading five goals.
As difficult as it was for Cuba to stay in the match, their fate was sealed near the hour mark, as hat trick hero Ariel Martinez was given a straight red card for stomping down on Blas Perez with a high challenge. Down to 10-men and their composure fading, Cuba would concede four goals after the red card as they pushed forward for the equalizer, including two by Perez in the 78th and 87th minutes.
For Cuba, it ends just their second tournament run ever into the quarterfinals. Martinez's heroics vs. Belize will not be forgotten but will be dampened by the red card vs. Panama. The final scoreline did not flatter the Caribbean champions effort during most of this tournament.
In the second semi final, Mexico was stymied by Trinidad and Tobago keeper Jan Williams for over 80 minutes with a series of spectacular saves.
In the end, it was a subtle touch in the 84th minute by Raul Jimenez that proved the difference. Jimenez redirected a cross by Miguel Layun that Williams appeared to get a hand on, but wasn't able to keep it from tucking just inside the side netting. For Mexico, who registered a total of 25 shots and force Williams into 10 saves, it was a long awaited goal for a much maligned squad in desperate need of results.
Trinidad's Andre Boucaud provided the first scoring chance in the 9th minute with a hard shot well parried by Mexican keeper Jonathan Orozco for the first of his two saves on the night. Mexico would ratchet up the pressure in the second half though, as Jimenez struck the post in the 55th and Williams denied Layun off a direct free kick with a full extension save to cover his right post in the 62nd.
Trinidad's stout goalkeeper did everything he could to keep out Jimenez's spinning shot out of the net, but could only get a fingertip to the ball as it found the side netting. It was a banner day for the Trinidad keeper, who repeatedly kept his side in the match but was unable to get T&T into their second ever semifinal.
Panama and Mexico will meet in one of the semifinal matches from Cowboys Stadium in Dallas on July 24th, setting up a rematch of their Group A match. Panama won 2-1 thanks to Gabriel Torres' first double of the Gold Cup, a win that propelled Panama to the top of Group A.