The CONCACAF Gold Cup Final was played before 57,920 fans at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday and the USA Men’s National Team defeated Panama 1-0 to win the trophy for a fifth time. Substitute Brek Shea scored the only goal of the game in the 69th minute to give the U.S.A. the victory in a largely uninspiring game.
The first half was a tense and tight match up with the battle being mostly fought in the midfield. The USA dominated possession building their offensive plays from the back and in a very controlled fashion. Kyle Beckerman, center midfielder for the USA, was involved in everything as the USA went forward and he was named Man of the Match for his efforts.
Despite the USA controlling the ball neither they nor Panama created many clear cut scoring opportunities with only a goalmouth scramble in front of the Panama goal and several wayward shots at either end providing the only excitement in a half where neither keeper was truly tested.
The first half was also marked by an injury to US playmaker Stuart Holden who had to leave after just 20 minutes with a strained right knee.
The second half was much more open than the first with the USA making better use of Eddie Johnson and Alejandro Bedoya as they regularly switched sides and attacked down both wings.
The USA also upped the tempo in the second half and used that pace to good effect to harass the Panama defense constantly.
Landon Donovan came into the Gold Cup after a self-imposed exile from international soccer and used the tournament to demonstrate his talents have not diminished. With a Most Valuable Player award winning performance of five goals and seven assists in the six games he played Donovan’s class was readily evident throughout the tournament. His pace on the ball and movement off the ball was a constant problem for Panama and he was always looking for the ball to go forward.
It was no surprise then that he was involved in the winning goal although his involvement was more remarkable for what he didn’t do! Generously claimed by some as a dummy Donovan was honest in his assessment of the shot he didn’t make.
“I took a mighty swing at it and missed,” Donovan said. “But it was enough to throw the goalie off.” Brek Shea was open at the far post to tap it in.
That one goal proved to be enough for the win. As the final whistle blew USA manager, Jurgen Klinsmann, joined the team on the field in their victory celebration.
Throughout the Gold Cup, the USA fielded a side largely comprised of squad and fringe players from the World Cup qualifying team allowing Jurgen Klinsmann the opportunity to evaluate them in a competitive international context. Looking for quality and depth to add to the squad should the team make it to Brazil for the World Cup in 2014, Landon Donovan’s name should have already been added to the list.