For the third time in Gold Cup history, the United States will battle for a third-place finish, when they face Panama on Saturday afternoon at PPL Park in Philadelphia.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side were heavy favorites to reach their sixth consecutive Gold Cup final, but those hopes were dashed by a shocking 2-1 loss to Jamaica in the semifinals. The U.S. fell behind by two goals within the first 36 minutes of play, and midfielder Michael Bradley’s second goal of the tournament failed to spark an effective rally in the second half.
Despite maintaining a wide possession advantage and the Yanks firing off 20 shots with 10 on target, they simply failed to beat Jamaican keeper Ryan Thompson. Often the U.S. seemed to squander great opportunities by failing to unleash a clean shot.
It’s been called the worst defeat in Klinsmann’s rather short reign, and while the U.S. has dominated Panama with an 11-4-1 all-time mark, they could be in danger of losing their first ever third-place match. The U.S. will likely face an inspired Panama squad seeking to finish the tournament on a high note after a painful loss in the semifinals.
Panama’s heartbreaking and controversial loss to Mexico in their semifinal should serve as fuel to Hector Dario Gomez’s side, and put the U.S. in danger of dropping consecutive games.
With only a few minutes left and up 1-0, Panama was a victim of questionable officiating by referee Mark Geiger, leading to a disastrous letdown and setting up overtime after Andres Guardado converted the penalty kick. Torres was whistled for a handball inside the penalty box in extra time, though multiple replay views showed his shoulder and upper arm touched the ball as he fell from an uncalled foul.
It was the second dubious call by Geiger, who had previously shown Luis Tejada a red card in a surprise decision in the 25th minute. Despite the disadvantage, Panama continued to give Mexico problems. Defender Roman Torres gave Panama the lead with a goal in the 57th minute, as Los Canaleros continued to show their resilience.
In extra time, Guardado would score the game winner on another penalty kick.
Panama reached the final in 2005 and 2013, losing both time the Yanks. A third-place finish would be a strong accomplishment for their efforts in the tournament.
The U.S. could receive an emotional boost from veteran DeMarcus Beasley. The 33-year-old had initially retired from international competition, but Klinsmann coaxed him to make one more attempt. The German-born coach told reporters Friday that Beasley will play in the second half against Panama, and it’s expected to be the final international match of his career.
"It looks like it comes to an end tomorrow if he doesn't reconsider," Klinsmann said. "It's a very special moment for him, because what he gave this team over the last many, many years has been unbelievable."
Start Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Fox Sports 2
Live Online: Fox Soccer 2 Go