USA draws with Panama, wins Group A; advances to quarterfinals of Gold Cup

The USMNT is advancing into the 2015 Gold Cup Quarterfinals, winning the group stage with 7 points and a record of 2-0-1 as they drew Panama by a score of 1-1 Monday night at our very own Sporting Park in KCK.

The U.S. in this match went once again with a 4-4-2 formation and gave some bench players (Wondolowski, Zardes, and maybe Alvarado and Beckerman) a chance to prove themselves, while giving most of the main players (Dempsey, Altidore, Yedlin, Gonzalez, Diskerud, and Johannsson) a rest for at least most of the match (Gonzalez, Altidore, and Diskerud for all of it) that really didn’t mean anything for them because they had already clinched Group A with a win vs Haiti.

The environment at Sporting Park was incredible, with the crowd chanting all match long, on the edge of their seats singing “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-AAAAAA” and chanting “I Believe That We Will Win” much longer and louder than Foxborough, MA and Frisco, TX, showing why Kansas City is considered “Soccer City, USA.” It didn’t matter how hot and humid it was, the American Outlaws of KC and the surrounding major cities proved why the midwestern U.S. has the best soccer fans in all of the CONCACAF region.

Early, the U.S. attacked early unlike the previous two games vs Honduras and Haiti. Michael Bradley was pressuring incredibly, playing fantastic defense in the attacking third, trying to force a turnover and immediate chance at a goal. At the 10th minute, Panama had a free kick on the right side of the box and it was put in beautifully by Luis Tejada, their No. 2 striker. But he was offside and it was called a no goal. Replay clearly showed it was the right call by about one yard. For the next couple Panamanian possessions, they were unsuccessful in their attempts to attack Guzan and score and Guzan got the ball with ease on both possessions. At the 16th minute, Wondolowski sent a TERRIFIC no look pass to Alejandro Bedoya and Bedoya’s shot was saved by Jaime Penedo. Later that minute, Panama sent a deep ball towards Blas Perez and John Brooks almost wrapped him up and got his second yellow card of the tournament, which suspends him for the Quarterfinal match. I think that will lead to SKC’s Matt Besler being put in the team come Gold Cup changes just before the Knockout Round. Armando Cooper shot the free kick that was very nice and almost went over Guzan due to Guzan being too far forward. Guzan immediately threw it to Fabian Johnson who sent a terrific ball to Gyasi Zardes who almost got between the Panama defense to attack Penedo, the ball eventually found Michael Bradley who took a very dangerous long shot that was just barely saved by Penedo. In the 19th minute, Timothy Chandler made a terrific steal and then gave a nice ball to Zardes, who’s cross was deflected and went for a corner. Bradley’s corner went and hit the outside netting. Later on, Panama attacked and may have cheated by intentionally jumping into Guzan’s free kick and Panama nearly scored that possession. A terrible ball by Beckerman led to Panama getting a couple chances, but nothing came from it. A dangerous cross from Darwin Pinzon was nearly headed in Guzan’s direction, but Perez jumped on top of Brooks and fell on him. Panama had another possibly dangerous possession, but beautiful defense by Alvarado caused him to go back and pass it around again. A handball by Alvarado to the left of the box in the 31st minute led to a close, dangerous free kick, but the U.S. defended it well. Then the U.S. and Panama kept turning it over sloppily. In the 34th minute, a beautiful ball by Perez to Tejada led to a dangerous chance, and Tejada made Alvarado look pathetic, running by him with ease, and sent a ground cross by Brooks and Guzan for a tap in for Blas Perez, his 11th career Gold Cup goal, which is third all-time behind U.S. legend Landon Donovan (18) and Mexico’s Luis Roberto Alves (12).

Immediately, the U.S. attacked Panama as the Bedoya sent it to Zardes in the middle of the edge of the box, who tried to back heel it to Wondolowski but it went passed him. Some more good passing by Panama eventually led to nothing. Perez was playing fantastic on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, getting a goal, a good chance, and multiple steals in the first 40 minutes. A beautiful ball by Wondolowski led to a great run by Bedoya, who was fouled around the box and likely should’ve been a penalty or very close to a free kick, but the referee called a terrible “play on, no foul.” Jurgen Klinsmann, Bradley, and many more were yelling, demanding an explanation, which was never given. Timothy Chandler once again with a terrible pass that almost led to a goal scoring opportunity, but instead, he fouled him and received a questionable yellow card. Soon, a dangerous free kick came after a shoulder to the head from Godoy, who got his second yellow of the tournament, to Zardes. Godoy is suspended for the quarterfinal. The free kick was beautiful by Bradley and Brooks had a chance for a header goal, but Panama did not concede. A turnover from Panama and goal scoring opportunity for the U.S. was laughably called back after a non-existent foul call against Wondolowski. That was the end of the half, Panama 1, USA 0 in a controversial first half full of a non-existent Gyasi Zardes, poor Michael Bradley, human Brad Guzan, and the first good moment of Ventura Alvarado’s Gold Cup.

Before the second half began, Tottenham’s DeAndre Yedlin came in for Franklin Morales and Clint Dempsey came in for Wondolowski, who actually had a nice first half unlike Zardes. Bedoya was now at left midfielder so Yedlin could be right midfielder. Some sloppy passing by Panama started the half, and in the 47th minute, a sloppy turnover led to Panama having a good chance, but no foul as the U.S. was tackled. Soon after, Ventura Alvarado received a yellow after pushing Perez in the collarbone area after Alvarado headed away a ball. It was a clear dive by Perez, but just moronic decision by Alvarado. The Yanks had plenty of decent chances for the next few minutes and nothing came from it. In the 52nd minute, Alejandro Bedoya passed it to a way offside Zardes who shot it off the crossbar, but was called offside anyways. The next minute, Tejada was one-on-one with John Brooks who defended it very well, although it gave Panama their third corner of the match, which was headed wide. Fabian Johnson passed a ball to Bedoya to the left of the goal who tried to cut it back to Zardes, but it was stopped short of him by a Panamanian player, as Dempsey then took the ball but could not get a shot off and it was cleared. Brooks then sent off a brilliant ball to Bedoya, who tried to give it to Zardes which was blocked, but it went right to Dempsey who made a FANTASTIC ball to Bedoya as he was falling down, and Bedoya crossed it to Michael Bradley, who scored the tap in equalizer! It was 1-1 in the 55th minute!