On Sunday afternoon, at Soldier Field in Chicago, on a cool day of merely 68 degrees but with plenty of wind, the United States Men's National Team won the Gold Cup championship, playing against an unexpected but totally justified team from Panama.
The match began under the cloud of controversy, as coach Jurgen Klinsmann - ejected in the 87th minute on Wednesday's semifinal match against xxx - and on Friday, the CONCACAF ruling board decided the head coach could not be on the sideline during the final match. Assistant coaches Martin Vasquez and Andreas Herzog were declared co-coaches for the match – with Herzog being listed as the official manager on the score card.
Panama got the first corner kick of the match in the 10th minute. The United States got their first in the 17th minute. When Panama attacked on the counter, Stuart Holden took a hit on the knee and went out of the game, leaving the US with only 10 for a brief time. The disadvantage was enough that the replacement coaches felt the need to make an unusually early substitution, bringing in Mikkel Diskerud in the 23rd minute. Holden's history of injury – he broke his leg in 2010, tore his ACL in 2011 and suffered from knee cartilage damage just 6 months after that ACL tear – made his quick disappearance from the game particularly disappointing. Grant Wahl reported that Holden had sprained his right knee and would be evaluated further at a later date. The biggest bit of action in the first half was the 9 fouls on the side of the US, to Panama's 5. The red, white and blue did control 75% possession in the first half, but neither team had any shots on goal.
In the second half, Landon Donovan continued his impressive performance during the Gold Cup, completing his comeback tour for the men's national team with something of an aberration. When Brek Shea came in for Joe Corona in the 68th minute, he scored almost immediately - in the 69th - off a Landon Donovan whiff that was fortunately a miss – had Donovan touched the ball, it certainly appeared as though Shea would have had to be called off side. It was an unusual way for Donovan to put his imprint on the game, but it was undeniable fun.
57,000 out of the 61,000 seats were filled and after this game, the national team will return to World Cup qualifying matches, playing in Costa Rica on September 6 and Mexico in Columbus on September 10.
With the win, Klinsmann's role as a coach during the record-breaking run of wins in a row for the men's national team is now up to 11. The US now has five Gold Cup titles - second only to Mexico's six. Panama ended the game without a shot on goal.