With both squads coming off highly disappointing results in the semifinals, the United States and Panama will vie for some semblance of redemption when they clash in the third-place Gold Cup match Saturday afternoon at PPL Park in Philadelphia.
For the U.S., the stunning 2-1 loss to underdog Jamaica has been called the worst of its kind under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. After being stunned by two first-half goals from Jamaica, the defending Gold Cup champions failed to reach the final for the first time since 2003.
"Obviously the team is disappointed. The fans are disappointed," Klinsmann said afterwards. "We wanted to play in the big final Sunday."
And the U.S. were expected to reach the finals, especially after largely dominating the opening rounds of the Concacaf tournament. They blasted Cuba, 6-0, in the knockout round, drew 1-1 with Panama and earned two wins against the Honduras and Haiti in the group stage, with veteran forward Clint Dempsey seemingly unstoppable with six goals.
Instead of their usual berth in the final, the Yanks must settle for essentially a rematch of the 2013 final against a Panama side equally distraught after a harrowing defeat against Mexico.
Hernan Dario Gomez’s 10-man squad was up 1-0 and appeared on the cusp of eliminating Mexico, but a disastrous and unfortunate hand ball whistle against defender Roman Torres resulted in a penalty and upheaval from Panama’s bench. The team nearly refused to continue play, but eventually lost in extra time.
Some members of the squad had to be restrained from American referee Mark Geiger, and thankfully the situation didn’t escalate to violence on the field.
Nevertheless, the shocking turn of events would mar an excellent effort from Panama, who played with a man down after forward Luis Tejada was send off in the 25th minute on a controversial red card.
Tejada will now miss the matchup with the U.S., leaving Panama without their top scorer. Instead, Gomez will likely turn to 34-year-old forward Blas Perez and midfielder Valentin Pimental to lead the attack.
Prediction: The loss of Tejada greatly limits Panama’s attack, but the U.S. will have its hands full against a side determined to erase the ugly defeat against Mexico. However, the U.S. should pull away in the second half.
Predicted Score: U.S. over Panama, 3-1.