Panama takes third in Gold Cup to add insult to injury for U.S.
CHESTER, Pa. -- Three quick thoughts after the U.S. dropped the third-place match at the 2015 Gold Cup, losing to Panama on penalties on Saturday following a 1-1 tie to finish fourth in the tournament they won two years ago.
1. Adding insult to injury for U.S.
Perhaps it's true that neither team really wanted to be there, but you can be sure that the Americans wanted to win the game once the match kicked off. Still, Panama was clearly the hungrier of the two and the deserved winner in the end -- even if the hosts ended up losing in the cruelest fashion possible.
It was four-time World Cup veteran DaMarcus Beasley, who was playing in his 122nd and likely final international game, who had his final spot-kick saved to end the match after Michael Bradley had also been stopped by Canaleros keeper Luis Mejia. Beasley had been a bright spot after entering at the beginning of the extra session, but even there, the Yanks were lucky not to lose, as keeper Brad Guzan made a number of key stops to keep the Americans in the match.
It was a bitter end to the tournament that has to be considered a dreadful one for Jurgen Klinsmann's team based on both the results and the performances, no matter how the coach might try to sugarcoat it later on.
2. Panama outplay Dempsey-less Americans
There's no doubt that not making the final was a bigger blow to the pre-Cup favorite U.S., who had qualified for the title match in each of the past five tournaments, winning three. Lingering post-semifinal loss hangover or not, the Americans were second-best all game.
With Gold Cup leading scorer Clint Dempsey sitting on the bench, the Canaleros out-shot Klinsmann's team 8-1 in the first half and 25-5 overall. Tim Ream and Fabian Johnson cleared shots off the line on either side of the intermission, but Panama got their deserved opener in the 54th minute when forward Roberto Nurse -- who endured a scoreless five-game spell with now-defunct MLS side Chivas USA in 2008 -- cut past Ream and John Brooks and calmly slotted the ball past Guzan. Klinsmann quickly obliged the "We want Dempsey" chants from the American Outlaws, bringing on the veteran striker (and winger DeAndre Yedlin) at the hour mark to pair with Aron Johannsson up top.
The move changed the game. Dempsey once again rescued the Yanks with a timely goal, his seventh of the competition, off a clever Yedlin lay-off 10 minutes after coming on. The former captain's introduction seemed to improve the players around him, too. Still, the substitution did nothing to alleviate concerns that Klinsmann's attack has been toothless without the country's most dangerous player on the field during this tournament, as Dempsey accounted for more than half of the squad's 12 goals.
3. The game was a dud
Third-place games are often high-scoring affairs -- the consolation matches at the past three World Cups produced 12 goals between them -- but Saturday's affair was a snoozer for the first hour. And on a hot, humid afternoon at PPL Park, both teams played with extra caution -- for good reason.
While yellow cards don't carry over to World Cup qualifying (or in the United States' case, its Confederations Cup playoff Oct. 9 against the winner of Sunday's finale between Jamaica and Mexico) as initially reported, any red would have. Add in the lack of atmosphere -- announced attendance for a game few home U.S. fans expected their team to be in was just 12,598 -- and it took a long time for the players to get into it.
Panama's goal helped changed that. The final 30 minutes of regulation time and in the extra session, as the legs got on both sides, chances created became more numerous. Guzan stopped the best one off a counter-attack in the 108th minute. Overall, though, the contest left plenty to be desired -- especially for the hosts.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.