Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gold Cup Semifinals - USA vs Panama


Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in! Freddy Adu, at one time believed to be the future of American soccer has been largely an afterthought in the National Team picture the last few years. He didn't make the World Cup team last summer, and he'd been playing in Turkey's second division, but when finally given an opportunity in the Gold Cup, he did not squander it. Coming on as a second half substitute for Juan Agudelo, Adu's vision and playmaking ability resulted in a trip to the finals for the United States. It was Adu's beautifully threaded ball that found an open Landon Donovan streaking down the right side who played an equally pinpointed pass through three defenders to Clint Dempsey at the back post who slid it home for the game's only goal in the 77th minute. Donovan came off the bench in this one as well as both of head coach Bob Bradley's moves paid off in sending the U.S. to their third straight shutout win.

The U.S. employed the same 4-5-1 lineup they used against Jamaica on Sunday with Juan Agudelo starting in place of the injured Jozy Altidore up front, with Sacha Klejstan, Michael Bradley, Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya making up the starting midfield. Unlike their earlier run-in with Panama, the U.S. was able to control the pace of the game a lot more, and while they didn't create a lot of good chances, they effectively neutralized the Panamanian attack. Agudelo had the best chance of the first half when his diving header off a low driven cross from Steve Cherundolo hit the post, but otherwise they didn't have any truly dangerous chances. Donovan came on at the break for Klejstan and in a surprise move Adu was the next guy called upon. With Adu in the midfield, Dempsey was able to move to the top of the 4-5-1 and the end result was that all 3 moves Bradley made led directly to a goal. Dempsey has now scored 3 goals in the Gold Cup and 22 for the United States, trailing only Landon Donovan among active players, and moving him ahead of Bruce Murray and into 5th place all-time behind Eric Wynalda (34), Brian McBride (30) and Joe-Max Moore (24).

The United States has now knocked Panama out of the last four Gold Cups going back to 2005 when they defeated them in a shootout to win the tournament. In both 2007 and 2009, the U.S. defeated Panama by scores of 2-1 in the quarterfinals.

The United States now awaits the results of tonight's other semifinal match between Honduras and Mexico to see who they will play for the 2011 Gold Cup title. As of this moment, the two teams are scoreless in the 80th minute. Mexico is the only team left in the tournament that has won every match they've been in.

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