US advances to Gold final
Dempsey goal downs Panama
HOUSTON — Clint Dempsey scored in the 77th minute off an assist from Landon Donovan, and the United States advanced to the Gold Cup final with a 1-0 victory over Panama last night.
The Americans will play in the biennial tournament’s championship game for the fourth straight time after avenging a 2-1 loss to Panama on June 11.
Freddy Adu made a long-awaited return to American soccer in the second half, and set up the winning play with a cross-field pass to Donovan, who played in his 27th consecutive Gold Cup match to extend his own record.
Donovan then threaded a pinpoint pass through the Panama defense to Dempsey, who slid as he redirected the ball into the low corner of the net.
The US will play the winner of the Honduras-Mexico semifinal for the championship at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
The United States defeated Panama in the knockout stage of the tournament for the fourth straight time. The Americans had never lost in the group stage of the tournament, or to Panama in international play until the shocking defeat earlier this month.
Both teams were missing top players in the rematch.
Panama forward Blas Perez earned a red card in his team’s quarterfinal win over El Salvador, and US forward Jozy Altidore was ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a strained hamstring.
Altidore, who has scored two of the Americans’ six goals in the event, was hurt in the ninth minute of Sunday’s 2-0 victory against Jamaica.
The Americans generated the first scoring chance in the 17th minute, when Alejandro Bedoya hooked a high cross into the goal area. Dempsey redirected a header toward the goal, but Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo corraled it before Juan Agudelo could finish.
A minute later, Panama’s Luis Tejada collided with Bedoya near midfield to earn the game’s first yellow card.
Agudelo hit the post with a diving header off a cross from Steve Cherundolo in the 25th minute.
Panama’s Alberto Quintero was tripped up deep in the American zone in the last minute of the first half, setting up a restart from the left side of the goal. Nelson Barahona then fired a high, hooking shot over the crossbar.
Donovan sat out the start for the second straight game in the tournament. He attended his sister’s wedding in California and rejoined the team the morning of Sunday’s game.
He started the second half, replacing Sacha Kljestan.