HOUSTON (June 22, 2011) – The U.S. Men’s National Team advanced to an unprecedented fourth straight CONCACAF Gold Cup final this evening displaying patience and poise in a 1-0 victory against Panama at Reliant Stadium. The U.S. will face Mexico for the third straight time in the final after the USA’s archrival defeated Honduras in the second semifinal.
In a defensive match against Panama that didn’t see many chances for either side, Clint Dempsey scored his third goal of the 2011 Gold Cup in the 76th minute after a great service from Landon Donovan set him up for a sliding finish from close range at the left post.
“It was a really good team effort, a hard game for sure, but in all ways I thought that the mentality of the group was looking for ways to win,” said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. “The first half I thought in stretches we had a pretty good rhythm with the ball. The second half was harder. Panama did a good job keeping things very tight, and now you have to look for different ways to win the game. Defensively we were solid, and I thought we put a very good play together to score a great goal.” (more quotes)
The game-winning goal started innocuously in the USA’s own defensive end, but quickly turned dangerous after second-half substitute Freddy Adu hit a perfectly placed long ball to Donovan who was making a run down the right flank. Donovan collected the ball near the right corner of the penalty area and with space in front of him dribbled towards goal before hitting a low laser through four Panamanian defenders to Dempsey who directed the ball into the net with his left foot from two yards out.
The 2011 Gold Cup final will take place on Saturday, June 25 at a sold-out Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Kickoff for the match is set for 9 p.m. ET, and the match can be seen live on FOX Soccer and Univision. FOX Soccer will also have a 30-minute pre-game show beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET. (TICKETS).
The U.S. and Mexico shard the spoils during the past two Gold Cup finals, with the U.S. taking the 2007 final 2-1 while Mexico pulled away late in 2009 to defeat an inexperienced U.S. squad for a 5-0 victory. The U.S. will be seeking its fifth Gold Cup title and a berth in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.
“The games come quickly, there is travel, and we knew coming into it that that’s what it would be like,” Bradley said. “We’re lucky that we have a number of guys that have been through it before, and so we’ve earned our way to the final. For a second we can feel good about that, but now obviously everything will be aimed at being ready for Saturday.”
Bradley went with the same lineup as the quarterfinal match against Jamaica, making only one change up front with Juan Agudelo starting for Jozy Altidore. Altidore pulled his hamstring against Jamaica in the ninth minute of that match, and after an MRI earlier this week was deemed out for the next four to six weeks. The start was Agudelo’s first since the USA’s last match against Panama in group play.
In a first half that saw limited opportunities for either side, the U.S. had the best opportunity with a header by Agudelo rattling the woodwork in the 25th minute. After eluding a couple of defenders along the right sideline, Alejandro Bedoya slipped the ball forward to Steve Cherundolo and he quickly sent in a cross into the penalty area. Agudelo did well to head the ball down toward goal, but after bouncing off the ground it only found the top of the right post.
The only other chances of the half came in the 34th minute when Jermaine Jones hit a volley near the top of the box that went wide right, and then Panama earned a free kick in the final minute along the left edge of the penalty area, but the attempt to sneak one past goalkeeper Tim Howard was well over the bar.
In the second half, there were a few more opportunities for both sides but overall the match remained a defensive and midfield battle. A total of 13 shots were taken between the two teams, and only three on goal with the U.S. doubling Panama’s single attempt. The shutout was the 24th in Howard’s career, tying him for third all-time with Brad Friedel.
Howard’s defensive line was up to the challenge of shutting down a Panamanian attack that scored two goals in their last meeting, doing so with solid positioning and working together to close down any threats in the final third. Panama was also without Blas Perez, who drew the penalty kick in the first meeting against the U.S., after receiving a red card between the end of regulation and the start of extra time against El Salvador in the quarterfinal.
The first dangerous chance for Panama came in the 61st when a cross from the left flank looked like it would fall to a streaking Alberto Quintero, but the forward couldn’t get a foot to the skipping service and it rolled harmlessly through the area.
On the other end, in shades of his goal against Jamaica, Jones unleashed a volley from the top of the penalty area in the 67th minute but this time his attempt went wide.
Three minutes later, Howard earned his shutout with his lone registered save of the night when Armando Cooper got free on the left side of the penalty area and ripped a high drive on target. Howard stretched and got just enough on the shot to ensure it went over the bar.
After taking Panama’s best shot, the U.S. goal started when Adu won a loose ball 40 yards from goal and one-touched it back to Michael Bradley. The U.S. midfielder pushed it out wide right to Bedoya, who provided it back to Adu in the center circle and he delivered a penetrating ball to Donovan.
The goal was Dempsey’s 22nd of his career, placing him in sole possession of fifth place all-time behind Joe-Max Moore (24), Brian McBride (30), Eric Wynalda (34) and Donovan (45).
This was the fourth consecutive Gold Cup where the U.S. has knocked out Panama. The consecutive meetings began in 2005 when the teams played to a scoreless draw in the final, with the U.S. hoisting the trophy after a 3-1 victory in a penalty shootout. Subsequently, the U.S. defeated Panama 2-1 in the quarterfinals of each of the next two tournaments, the U.S. requiring added time for a Kenny Cooper penalty kick to send the U.S. into the semifinals in the 2009 victory.
2011 CONCACAF GOLD CUP Final
USA vs Mexico
The U.S. now 4-1-1 against Panama in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and 7-1-2 overall with 20 goals scored and six allowed.
— U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report —
Match: United States vs. Panama
Date: June 22, 2011
Competition: CONCACAF Gold Cup – Semifinal
Venue: Reliant Stadium – Houston, Texas
Kickoff: 6 p.m. CT
1-0 Clint Dempsey (Landon Donovan) 76th minute
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 6-Steve Cherundolo, 21-Clarence Goodson, 3-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), 14-Eric Lichaj; 4-Michael Bradley, 13-Jermaine Jones; 22-Alejandro Bedoya, 16-Sacha Kljestan (10-Landon Donovan, 46), 8-Clint Dempsey; 9-Juan Agudelo (20-Freddy Adu, 66)
Subs not used: 7-Maurice Edu, 11-Chris Wondolowski, 12-Jonathan Bornstein, 15-Tim Ream, 23-Marcus Hahnemann
Head Coach: Bob Bradley
PANAMA: 1-Jaime Penedo; 5-Román Torres, 14-Eduardo Dasent, 17-Luis Henríquez, 23-Felipe Baloy (capt.); 6-Gabriel Gómez (20-Anibal Godoy, 86), 10-Nelson Barahona (8-Gabriel Torres, 86), 11-Armando Cooper (16-Luis Renteria, 71), 21-Amilcar Henríquez; 18-Luis Tejada, 19-Alberto Quintero
Subs not used: 3-Harold Cummings, 4-Aramis Haywood, 9-Renan Addles, 12-Luis Mejía, 15-Eric Davis, 22-Eybir Bonaga
Head Coach: Julio Dely Valdes
Stats Summary: USA / PAN
Shots: 5 / 8
Shots on goal: 1 / 2
Saves: 2 / 0
Fouls: 21 / 10
Corners: 2 / 3
Offside: 2 / 2
PAN – Armando Cooper (caution) 18th minute
PAN – Luis Henríquez (caution) 36
USA – Carlos Bocanegra (caution) 68
PAN – Gabriel Gomez (caution) 72
Referee: Enrico Wijngaarde (SUR)
Assistant Referee 1: Hector Vergara (CAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Leonel Leal (CRC)
Fourth Official: David Gantar (CAN)
Budweiser Man of the Match: Clint Dempsey –ussoccer.com–