Supersub Shea strikes again, sends U.S. past Panama to Gold Cup crown.
By Robert Wagman
(Sunday, July 28, 2013) -- Midfielder Brek Shea scored on a tap-in midway through the second half, lifting the United States men to a 1-0 triumph over stubborn, defense-minded Panama for the CONCACAF Gold Cup championship before 57,029 this afternoon at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
The tournament title advanced the U.S. one step closer to the 2017 Confederations Cup, facing the winner of the 2015 Gold Cup in a playoff for entry into the prestigious eight-nation event. If the U.S. captures the 2015 trophy, it would clinch its Confederations Cup berth.
The Americans (12-2-2 in 2013) completed the tournament at 6-0 and extended their winning streak to 11, four better than the previous best, set in 2007. “I think in this tournament, we had the best squad,” said U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann, who was suspended for abuse toward the referee in the semifinals and watched today from the press box. We had the best team and really deserved to win it. . . We enjoy this moment because a Gold Cup win is a big moment. . . At this moment, right now, the players deserve a big compliment. They played very well over four weeks and deserved this trophy.”
In 2005, the U.S. defeated Panama in a penalty-kicks tiebreaker to win the Gold Cup after 120 minutes of scoreless soccer. That could well have been the scenario today with Panama withdrawing into a defensive shell with 10 and 11 players often behind the ball and only occasionally emerging into a quick counter-attack.
The Americans, for their part, attacked and attacked with little to show for the effort. They tried to move through the middle, but it was simply too clogged. They tried to go to the outside, but when the ball was played in front of Panama’s net, the U.S. was foiled again and again. On the few occasions the Americans managed a decent chance, the finishing was absent.
Panama countered so infrequently and so ineffectually that it seemed clear it was playing to take the affair to penalty kicks. The U.S. grew frustrated and the match turned testy. The Americans managed only two shots on goal, while Panama had only one. The overall shots count favored the U.S. 2-1. This was not a day for offensive brilliance.
The U.S. went ahead 1-0 on a play started by midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. He sent a pass in front of the goal from just outside the top right corner of the penalty area to open midfielder Landon Donovan at the center of the six-yard-line. Donovan, however, got his feet tied and whiffed on the cross, but the attempted shot froze Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. The rolling ball seemed targeted for the left corner of the net, but Shea erased any doubt when he punched it in with his left foot from one yard out in the 69th minute.
Shea scored 42 seconds after entering. It was the second game-winner he provided coming off the bench in the Gold Cup. His strike with five minutes left defeated Costa Rica to close Group C play. "In two games, he was at the right time in the right spot in the deciding two games of this tournament," Klinsmann said.
The Americans’ two biggest offensive threats, Donovan and striker Eddie Johnson were constantly double-marked and could do little unless they moved out wide or retreated into the midfield to get the ball. If they beat the first defender they faced, second and sometimes third opponents were there.
The U.S. spent a good deal of time passing the ball around the back between defenders. The Americans did not have much luck with their entry passes and they were repeatedly cleared. Then the process started all over again.
Donovan and Johnson had the only other good scoring chances for both teams. In the 56th minute, midfielder DaMarcus Beasley went deep into the left corner and sent a cross to Donovan facing the left post. Donovan sent his hard seven-yard header wide left. In the 84th minute, Johnson was the recipient of a left-side pass from Shea, but be drove his point-blank shot over the crossbar.
Down by a goal, the Panamanians had to come out of their shell the final 20 minutes. They managed to dump a few dangerous balls into the box, but the U.S. back-line and keeper Nick Rimando were able to diffuse each attempt before a dangerous shot could be triggered. One might wonder if Panama had attacked from the outset, whether it might have experienced a better result.
Then U.S. mostly used a “B” team with members of the World Cup qualifying squad mostly absent. Donovan, who was dropped from qualifying because of an inconveniently-timed sabbatical, certainly earned his way back onto the first team and several other players earned further consideration.
Since most teams brought their reserve teams to the Gold Cup, in the greater scheme of things, not much can be drawn from the results. “When you talk about the World Cup one day, World Cup qualifiers, but also the World Cup, it’s a different music that is played there. We all know that.
The U.S., which leads CONCACAF’s World Cup Qualifying Final Round at 4-1-1 with 13 points, has four qualifiers remaining, two in September and two in October.
Donovan, who had five goals and a tournament-high seven assists, was named Gold Cup Golden Ball (most valuable player) recipient.” He shared the Golden Boot for most goals with U.S. striker Chris Wondoloski and Panama forward Gabriel Torres.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando - 6: With one save, there was not much for him to do, but he was steady, especially in the closing minutes.
Defender DaMarcus Beasley - 5.5: He had little to do defensively until the final 10 minutes. Offensively, he was closely marked whenever he crossed into the Panamanian end.
Defender Matt Besler - 6: He showed well whenever Panama tried to counter and the few times it moved into the U.S. box. He was steady all day although, like his fellow defenders, he was rarely put under any pressure.
Defender Clarence Goodson - 6: He was a rock over the final 20 minutes when Panama moved forward and tried to send high balls into the middle. He cleared one ball after another. He tried, without much success, to be a factor on U.S. corner kicks, but was met by Panama’s two tall, experienced central defenders.
Defender Michael Parkhurst - 5.5: He was not able to move forward very often. He spent a lot of time passing the ball back and forth with little forward motion. He was fine on defense, but was never put under much pressure.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 7: As he has been in every match, he was the workhorse in the defensive midfield. Given the way that Panama went into a defensive formation, he was not called on often, but he was there every time it mattered.
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya - 7: He was particularly busy in the center of the midfield. He had some success moving the ball through to his front line and he did well breaking up the Panama’s few offensive thrusts in a fine match.
Midfielder Stuart Holden – no rating; Holden’s bad luck continues as he went out early with what is called a sprain to his reconstructed right knee. He was just settling into the match when the injury occurred.
Midfielder Joe Corona - 5: Given the number of Panama defenders in the crowded middle, he really never got into the match. He made an effort, but with little to show for it.
Forward Landon Donovan - 7: He should have had perhaps two goals, but was just a bit off today. Even then, he was still the dominant American and was clearly the best player in the tournament.
Forward Eddie Johnson - 7: He put everything he had into the match, but he too could not break down the stout Panama defense. When he did, he sent a point-blank shot high. Still, he worked very hard, was always a threat, and should get an “A” for effort.
Midfielder Mix Diskerud (23rd minute for Holden) - 6.5: He came in cold as an injury replacement and immediately got into the action. He was solid defensively and did what he could against the drawn-in Panama.
Midfielder Brek Shea (67th minute for Corona) - 7: Forty-two seconds after entering, he was in position to make the key play of the day on a goal anyone could have scored, but he was there to be the one.
Defender Omar Gonzales (89th minute for Bedoya) – 6: Normally, such a short appearance would not deserve a rating, but the tall defender made two critical clearances in stoppage time.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Alejandro Bedoya.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
Do you have a comment on this story or something to say about soccer in general? Send us a letter.