Gold Cup Third Place Match Recap: USA 1(2)-1(3) Panama

After failing to make the Gold Cup final for the first time in the last six attempts, the United States slumped to a second consecutive defeat in the tournament, falling on penalty kicks to Panama at PPL Park.

Backup goalkeeper, Luis Mejia, starred for Panama in the spot kicks, denying both US captain Michael Bradley and DaMarcus Beasley to give his side the victory and a third place finish.

Looking the better, more aggressive side for the majority of the first hour, Panama had deservedly gone ahead after Roberto Nurse cut past John Brooks in the 55th minute. Their joy would be short lived when Clint Dempsey, a substitute on the afternoon, leveled the scoreline 15 minutes later.

In the end, it was a fair result as Panama controlled play in extra time, forcing Brad Guzan and his scrambling defense into a number of saves and rushed clearances.

First half

Early defensive miscommunication nearly gave Panama a quick opening, with Brooks gifting possession to Nurse, but the US defense recovered.

Guzan claimed well on 12 minutes after Tim Ream conceded on the wing, allowing Panama a dangerous opportunity to swing the ball into the box.

The US had their first half chance in the 25th minute when Aron Johannsson held up well at midfield to release Graham Zusi on the counter. But with Bradley racing into the box at the far post, Zusi put his cross straight to Mejia for a simple catch.

In the 37th minute, Ream played the savior for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team when he cleared Armando Cooper’s shot off the line. A sloppy turnover in midfield by Joe Corona sent Cooper in on the defense with a full head of steam but, after skipping past Omar Gonzalez and Guzan, he couldn’t get the ball past Ream, who belted the clearance to safety.

Guzan stood tall moments later to claim Rolando Blackburn’s header off a corner, taking the weight of the striker’s boot in the stomach in the process.

Gonzalez and Brooks continued to look out of sync in the 40th minute. This time Nurse got in behind too easily, but could not direct Miguel Camargo’s well struck cross.

Panama again looked to have the opener in the 43rd minute after Brooks lost a header in his own box and Roman Torres had time to cut back for Camargo’s shot. Unlucky for Panama though, Camargo’s goal bound shot ricocheted back off one of his red-shirted teammates.

On the stroke of halftime, Panama again looked on the verge of opening the score when Tim Chandler failed to close down the ball. Blackburn found inside position on Brooks, but he dribbled his attempted volley past both a stranded Guzan and the far post.

Second half

The US started the second half with more energy and Bradley nearly released Johannsson into the box in the 50th minute, but his pass skimmed under the striker’s foot.

Less than a minute later, Chris Wondolowski had his first chance of the match when Chandler fired a pinpoint cross into him in the center of the box. But, with a chance to grab the opener against the run of play, Wondolowski could not keep his header on frame, skimming it past the far post.

For the third time in the match, Panama was left holding their heads after a ball was cleared off the line, this time in the 54th minute. After Ream conceded an unnecessary corner, this time Fabian Johnson played the hero, saving the ensuing delivery from ending up in the back of the US net.

Seconds later, Panama had their goal through Nurse. Receiving the ball with time to run at Brooks, Nurse cut inside the US defender. Brooks lunged unconvincingly, leaving the Panamanian striker to walk in unchallenged on Guzan, where he easily slotted the ball inside the far post.

Torres nearly made it 2-0 in the 65th minute when he stayed forward and got behind Brooks, but when a cross was knocked down into his path, he was unable to keep his shot inside the near post.

With sloppy turnovers to onrushing teammates, the US continued to be masters of their own demise in the 67th minute. This time, Johnson sent Panama on their way with a poorly judged pass, but substitute Alfredo Stephens had his cross blocked and Nurse could not get his header on target.

Panama would rue those missed chance minutes later when the Americans’ first two substitutes, DeAndre Yedlin and Clint Dempsey, combined to level the scores. When Yedlin got behind the Panamanian defense, and did well to take down Bradley’s entry ball off his chest, he showed the presence of mind not to rush the shot, laying the ball back for Dempsey instead. Racing into the box from the right, Dempsey did just enough to sidefoot his shot home past two scrambling defenders.

Suddenly on the front foot, Yedlin nearly set up a shock lead for the US in the 73rd minute. Marauding up the right touch line, he brushed aside two defenders before playing Chandler into space. Spying Dempsey in the box, Chandler directed the ball to the forward’s head. With Mejia racing off his line, Dempsey challenged bravely but could not direct his header on goal.

Guzan came up big for the US in the 81st minute when Blackburn again found too much space on a corner. Rising well, he directed his header down and to the near post, but Guzan reacted quickly to swat it away and then pouncing on the loose ball before it could cross the line.

With regulation nearing its end, substitute Abdiel Arroyo had the final chance to end the match after racing in behind a tired US defense, but Guzan did well to force him wide, and Arroyo could only shoot into the outside of the net.

Extra Time: First Half

The US had the first real chance of extra time when they combined well through Bradley and Dempsey in the middle, but after Bradley played Johnson wide, he could do little with the ball when it was returned to him in a sea of bodies in the box.

Chandler was next to take aim at the Panama net, but after Yedlin teed him up, his shot flew wide of the mark.

With all of their subs used up, a moment of miscommunication saw Ream and Guzan collide in the US box, leaving the defender visibly struggling for the remainder of the match.

Extra Time: Second Half

Taking advantage of Ream’s lack of mobility in the 107th minute, Nurse raced in behind, but Corona did very well to chase back and help out his defense, marshalling Cooper before eventually deadening his shot for Guzan with a sliding challenge.

Yedlin was the next American forced into scramble mode with Nurse again getting behind the defense, this time on Brooks’ side. But, between Yedlin’s boot, and Guzan’s sprawling hand, the US did enough to keep Panama out.

Guzan did all the work himself in the 111th minute after Nurse again found space behind the laboring Ream, denying him at the near post.

Penalty Kicks

After doing just enough to force the match to penalties, the US got off on the right foot when Johannsson sent Mejia the wrong way and calmly slotted home, but Panama answered right back when Torres sent Guzan diving to his right, only to power his shot the other way.

Dempsey’s soft touch down the center of the goal was matched when Arroyo placed his shot just out of Guzan’s reach, levelling the scores at 2-2 after 2 rounds.

Johnson could not keep the string going though, sending a right-footed curler over the bar. Needing a stop from Guzan, the US keeper dove to his left, gratefully accepting the weak roller from Cooper to keep his side level.

But the US was unable to convert any more spot kicks on the night, with Meija saving Bradley’s attempt, and then stopping Beasley, to give Panama a deserved victory.

US verdict

Final thoughts: Full system failure

As Klinsmann’s team bows out of the Gold Cup in fourth place, it is important to take stock of where the team sits in terms of development. Dips in form and confidence between World Cups and the beginning of a new phase of qualifying are hardly a new phenomenon, yet for all the experimentation with personnel, formation and tactics, US fans will struggle to see the upside of the current regime. After all, neither fullback position has been solidified, and despite having World Cup experience in its prime, Klinsmann bypassed the Besler-Gonzalez pairing in favor of John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado. While those two may pan out in the future, their disjointed, sloppy showing throughout this summer’s Gold Cup made plain neither is ready to hold down the center of defense at present.

Move to midfield where Klinsmann has failed to groom possible successors for Kyle Beckerman or Jermaine Jones, despite having Perry Kitchen, Will Trapp, Danny Williams, and Alfredo Morales in camp for a cup of coffee, though little more. Michael Bradley remains a permanent resident in the midfield, though his position within Klinsmann’s system remains a constantly debated topic. Out wide, Klinsmann has relied on converts like Yedlin or Gyasi Zardes, or central players like Alejandro Bedoya.

And that is not even touching on the front line, where Jozy Altidore’s yo-yoing form somehow left the door open for, of all people, Chris Wondolowski, to not only make the team, but see extended minutes.

That Dempsey proved the only consistently productive player is bittersweet. After his Open Cup meltdown and subsequent loss of the captain’s armband, Dempsey was in sparkling form in the Gold Cup, single-handedly dragging the US through the group stage. But by Russia 2018, Dempsey will be 35 and questions of diminishing returns will likely have crept up, given the natural duration of playing careers. Klinsmann was quick to cut the cord of over-reliance when it came to Landon Donovan, but if he does the same with Dempsey, it is hard to see, at least in the short term, where the goals will come from.

All that said, this is still Klinsmann’s job and this is still Klinsmann’s team.

It will be hard to deny that many, if not all, of the calculated risks he took for this tournament backfired. The US was out-hustled and out-competed far too frequently and the lineup rotation failed to create anything approaching meaningful — and lasting — chemistry. But in just over two months time, the US has a chance at redemption in the playoff against the winner of the Mexico-Jamaica Gold Cup final for a place in the Confederations Cup. With that opportunity, Klinsmann has his own chance to get his team back on track. It all starts with a visit from Peru on September 4, a friendly that will now be regarded with far more scrutiny than anyone would have guessed even two weeks ago. Make the right calls and re-invigorate his team, and this tournament will soon be a distant blip on the radar. Fail to do so, recycle the same stale soccer against Peru (and Brazil after that on September 8) — and miss out on the Confederations Cup — and the calls for Klinsmann’s head will grow louder and louder.

It’s not exactly the kind of noise anyone wants to accompany the start of the qualification campaign for the 2018 World Cup, which will begin November 13.

1-Brad Guzan; 21-Timmy Chandler, 3-Omar Gonzalez (25-DaMarcus Beasley, 91), 6-John Brooks, 15-Tim Ream; 19-Graham Zusi (2-DeAndre Yedlin, 60), 24-Joe Corona, 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 23-Fabian Johnson ; 9-Aron Johannsson , 18-Chris Wondolowski (8-Clint Dempsey, 60)
Subs Not Used: 12-Nick Rimando, 22-William Yarbrough; 5-Kyle Beckerman, 10-Mix Diskerud, 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 13-Ventura Alvarado, 16-Brad Evans, 20-Gyasi Zardes, 26-Alan Gordon
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

12-Luis Mejía; 13-Adolfo Machado, 3-Harold Cummings, 5-Román Torres, 15-Erick Davis; 11-Armando Cooper, 14-Miguel Camargo (4-Alfredo Stephens, 46 (18-Darwin Pinzón, 91)), 20-Anibal Godoy, 19-Alberto Quintero; 16-Rolando Blackburn (22-Abdiel Arroyo, 88), 9-Roberto Nurse
Subs Not Used: 6-Gabriel Gómez, 7-Blas Pérez, 8-Gabriel Torres, 17-Luis Henriquez, 21-José Calderón, 23-Ángel Patrick
Head Coach: Hernan Dario Gomez

Scoring Summary
PAN – Roberto Nurse (Rolando Blackburn) 55th minute
USA – Clint Dempsey (DeAndre Yedline) 70

Penalty Kick Summary
USA – Aron Johannsson (goal), Clint Dempsey (goal), Fabian Johnson (missed), Michael Bradley (saved), DaMarcus Beasley (saved)
PAN – Román Torres (goal), Abdiel Arroyo (goal), Armando Cooper (saved), Harold Cummings (goal)
Panama wins penalty shootout 3-2

Misconduct Summary
USA – Fabian Johnson – 29th minute
PAN – Armando Cooper – 86
USA – Timothy Chandler – 96
USA – DeAndre Yedlin – 97
PAN – Anibal Godoy – 97
PAN – Román Torres – 114

Stats Summary (USA / PAN)
Shots: 8 / 24
Shots on Goal: 2 / 13
Saves: 12 / 1
Corner Kicks: 3 / 8
Fouls: 18 / 17
Offside: 0 / 1

Referee: Oscar Moncada (HON)
Assistant 1: Garnet Page (JAM)
Assistant 2: Christian Ramirez (HON)
Fourth Official: David Gantar (CAN)

Venue: PPL Park, Chester, PA
Attendance: 12,598
Kickoff: 4:00 p.m. ET


  1. klinsmann is bad and he should feel bad
    i have very little confidence in our chance to win the confederations cup playoff game after he basically said he is going to stick to his guns despite this disastrous gold cup

    • But, but, but, in the post-game Jurgen said we played well and “could have won the tournament.” Surely Jurgen knows best, we should trust him without question, anyone who doesn’t like him is an ignorant hater, and he craps gold.

      I’m honestly baffled that Sunil said his job was completely secure. When you look at actual meaningful games and not just friendlies, his record is worse than Bradley’s and everyone was clamoring for his head. What’s it going to take for people to figure out that, for all his skills as a recruiter and maybe even as a technical director, he’s just not a good manager?

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    What a poor tournament overall. Not a lot of good for a tournament the U.S. was really trying to win. Not much to say really.

  3. I apparently didn’t get the memo to skip this like the other half of the crowd.
    As satisfying as the Union on typical day at PPL, but made worse after the heart and soul I saw by that Union team in Harrison. It was evident I should’ve demanded my money back by halftime.
    Saw tweets people were leaving by then. No doubt rushing to the nearest bar to catch not-too-distant-future ex-Phillie Cole Hamels throw a no hitter.

  4. I can only hope tomorrow is exciting and can wash this disaster away. Pulling for Jamaica.

  5. Klinsmann should have never gotten the job to begin with. He doesn’t understand the dynamic that is US Soccer…having us try to compete technically with the European or South American teams will always be the wrong strategy. From a national team perspective, US Soccer needs to be more tactical than technical…our players will never match those players’ skill level. So, we need to play to our strengths, which have always been an organized, consistent defense, strong goalkeeping, a playmaking central midfielder, forwards that can finish, and a counter-attacking style. Klinsmann has failed in promoting consistency (especially on defense) and has not developed the younger players, who should be much further along at this point from a national team perspective. And let’s not even talk about his distaste for MLS…the USSF should be building an alliance with the domestic league and helping it grow, however possible…not pushing it away and belittling it in the media. Additionally, it’s not just Klinsmann that should lose his job…Sunil Gulati has been a failure as well from both a performance and ethics perspective. The team has not won a knockout round game on his watch and has clearly regressed to this point. Embarrassingly, the Chuck Blazer and Landon Donovan fiascos also happened on his watch, both of which were a PR nightmare for the USSF.

    To me, there’s one person that needs to head up the USSF. His name is Bruce Arena. Bruce has been wildly successful at every level (college, pro, and national team) and has led the US team to its best WC finish in modern-day soccer (2002 quarterfinals, with all 11 starters being born and raised in America). Give him the reigns, allow him to choose his coach (maybe he coaches through the 2018 WC and grooms his successor), structure the program his way, and off we go.

    • Well put, VDS.

    • I don’t know whats more disturbing, your desire to return US Soccer to the dark ages, or that Americans, that are born and raised here, are somehow better than the US citizens born to US servicemen, or ex-pats, over-seas.

      • Please don’t put words in my mouth. I never, ever said that citizens here are better than those born abroad. I’m talking about growing up in the system and a familiarity with US Soccer vs growing up in a foreign system and then all of a sudden having to adapt to our system at age 18 or later, in most cases.

      • I apologize that I misunderstood. The coffee may not have kicked in yet. But isn’t the point of bringing in a coach like Klinsmann to move towards a more European style, in order for our program to advance. Not just to sit and stagnate. The days of bunker and being the gosh aren’t they cute, hard working Americans, need to be over.
        The German and Mexican Americans that have come into the side, haven’t seemed to have an integration problem to me. So I don’t see the problem there. But as for our youth system and the way our country “develops” young players, I totally agree there needs to be some sort of change. Maybe with MLS teams expanding their youth systems more talent will be created. I really don’t know what the answer is, or even if there is just one answer.

      • No problem. So here’s the huge issue that I have with Klinsmann, other than his ridiculous lack of consistency and experience in the back (100% self-caused). He shuns the MLS, which is clearly the future of US youth soccer. The MLS academies have great financial backing, which obviously is the key to supporting any kind of effective organization. Yet, he totally craps all over the league. The reason that those European and South American players have a soccer ball at their feet as soon as they’re born is because Messi, Maradona, Neymar, Rooney, Ronaldo, etc. are highly visible stars. They are the biggest athletes in their countries…just like LeBron, Brady, and Jeter here. Now, you might argue that, “Yeah, but Neymar and Messi also play in Europe.” True, but they’re the best in the world (global stars), and part of that reason is because they’ve been dribbling a soccer ball since 6 months of age and doing nothing else athletically. Realistically, that’s probably not going to happen here for a long time, based on what I mentioned above re: all kinds of different sporting options. Take our country’s current best field player (Michael Bradley). He can’t even get serious run in Serie A w/ Roma, which is really disappointing. So to me, the only other way to build the sport domestically is by getting behind MLS, it’s financially viable academy programs, etc. 1000%. And as we’ve seen Klinsmann fails to do that, and by proxy, Gulati is just as big a problem in that regard. USSF should be pushing the MLS organization as a whole to the public as strongly as possible, because that’s where the vast majority of our talent is going to come from going forward, not from some foreign nationals who haven’t grown up in the system. Hence, the better the league, the better our national team.

      • To some extent I agree with you. I think growing and supporting the MLS can only benefit the US soccer program. But I think where the disconnect comes in, is that fundamentally MLS is concerned about growing, surviving, Money. And the US soccer federation is concerned about making the National team better. I agree with Klinsmann. And apparently so does Gulati. Would it be nice to have a National team Coach that is all gung-ho about the MLS? Sure. But I think that’s more detrimental than not trying to fix what is keeping the US from being as competitive.
        Asking questions is a good thing. It causes re-evaluation. Course changes. It hopefully prevents stagnation. Going along with the status quo to not rock the boat, may create a sense of unity for awhile, but will only lead to stagnation and falling behind.

      • @VDS- I don’t think JK shuns the MLS Academies… I think he expects the outliers within the US System to go abroad and play the game at the highest levels.
        How is that different than any other team or nation?
        Also…Fabian Johnson is our best field player IMO. Bradley while a quality player for the team makes too many errors in the middle of the field. Way too many turnovers.

    • “our players will never match those players’ skill level” – we are, based on this view, doomed to fail forever. I appreciate your desire for a “great leader” type but things don’t work well that way either. The inference is that committee rule is screwing things up, but that does not appear to be the case as JK has great authority.

      • I say that our “skill level” will never reach European and South American levels because our kids have so many sporting options here growing up that are not available to those in other countries. Combine that with the fact that soccer in this country (and I’m an active coach) is geared towards the middle and upper class, and you have a setup is not conducive to premier skill development at an early age. To be clear, it’s not what I would like it to be, but it’s the reality of the situation. Now, let’s get to the cost barrier. Take the premier youth clubs in this area…LMSC, Continental FC, UK Elite, etc…if costs upwards of $2,500 / yr to play for one of those clubs at the youngest ages. That’s $2,500 after-tax money, so you’re talking about $4,000 or so pre-tax. Those clubs have excellent coaching, excellent structure, etc, so the most well-off kids are going to go there and take advantage of that organization. Combine that with our country’s lack of “street” soccer presence, and you have a system that won’t ever be attractive or available to lower income families and kids (which is the majority on a per household basis). It just is what it is at this point, so I think it’s important to take that reality into consideration when building the entire national team program (youth to senior).

      • Salient points indeed.

    • Darth Harvey says:

      VDS – I’m surprised you didn’t shoehorn in a nomination for Maurice Edu to become player – coach of the US team.

      • Ha, very nice

      • BTW, as if on cue, Taylor Twellman called for Mo Edu to get another shot on the national team tonight. Looking at the US back line at this point, I can’t say that I disagree.

      • I don’t understand why JK didn’t try out Edu in the center of a back 3, instead opting for Jones when trying that 3-5-2 formation.
        Edu has more experience on the backline but is just as mobile and as good as a distributor.

      • If you understand anything that JK does defensively, please let me know…because i don’t get any of it. What successful team constantly changes center back combinations, flips outside backs from side to side like they are pancakes, and constantly plays players out of their normal position / comfort zone? Here’s your answer. No successful team does anything remotely like this.

    • Alicat215 says:

      I see both points being made here……….and there is truth to both. JK wants to modernize our game here like across the pond……nothing wrong with that. But even across the pond the Spanish, Germans, Dutch, Italians, English etc. have their own cultural brand of football. This is where the disconnect is in my opinion………you can modernize our game technically and tactically…….but it has to be an American system that fits us culturally. We can’t be Spain or Germany, we can only be American. There is nothing wrong with having the kids who grew up elsewhere play for us…….they chose the Red, White, and Blue and they should be respected for that……..they’re footballers…they can learn to adapt their game or not, some will…..some won’t. We have used them for a while, this is nothing new…….,Ernie Stewart and Thomas Dooley come to mind. The world is different place than the 90’s too….it’s much more integrated. The Germans, Portuguese, and Spanish all do it too. But like you all said….it’s a healthy argument that needs to happen.

    • Im not sure I agree with your opening premise above VDS…but I certainly recognize the logic and clearly thought out argument you make.
      All I know is I argued from the end of last World Cup cycle is that it is nearly inexcusable for JK not to know who this team is. It is also necessary to begin a transformation to a younger side with a key veteran or three ( thinking Bradley, Dempsey, ) move on from the JJ and the Kyle Beckerman’s and begin really building a cohesion to 2018.
      Too much flux.

      • Agreed. Way too much flux, especially in the back. Inexcusable by JK. Lot of great points here, I’ll address them one by one. Great convo by the way. Disagree on Fabian Johnson. I think he’s a really good player, but it’s too early to call him the best on the team. Being a #6 in the Pirlo mold is a lot different than being an outside back, asked to make runs up the wing. Fabian is a very good player, don’t get me wrong, but at this point, I don’t think you can put him above Bradley (and agreed, his passing is inconsistent at times). Re: Klinsmann not shunning MLS. I think there’s a difference here. Countries like Belgium, Costa Rica, Poland…they expect their top players to go abroad because they realize that they don’t have the potential to develop a world-class, top caliber league. That’s where I think the difference is. The MLS and its backers are clearly well financed (outlier being the Union’s operating chief Sugarman), and the league has an audience pool to build a Premier-like league over the next 20-30 years. But if that’s going to happen, the top players need to stay here and play in combination with other excellent international players and other domestic players. But, because the USSF execs will be judged on their records in the present (and their only financial compensation is based on short-term results, not long-term ownership), they don’t have the same goals that the MLS ownership group does. And that’s where the disconnect comes in. But, if the USSF took the longer view, it’s my opinion that there would be much more successful for both entities in the long run.

  6. Andy Muenz says:

    Congrats to Panama for winning 3rd place, despite not winning a game in the entire tournament (1 loss and 5 ties with the loss being the one game that probably should have been a win).
    Most of the US players looked lackadaisical throughout the game while Panama seemed to want the game more. It was pretty clear which team deserved to be in the 3rd place game and which one should have been in the finals.

    • agree – just no benefit to the US players to doing the dirty, hard work to win the Gold Cup because players are either midseason in the MLS (and need to stay healthy) or in preseason for other leagues (and need to stay healthy) – only benefit is personal growth, feeling superior in Concacash and qualifying for another tournament that interferes with club play. Not an excuse as they were awful – unable to make simple passes, not running, etc. Poor decisions both in game and meta-game.

  7. USMNT lost the game to a team that prepared by playing kickball the day before.
    That fact alone should signal repercussions somewhere…at some level.

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