Monday, July 25, 2005


What a game. It was about 120 minutes of pure attack soccer by both Panama and the US.

Each side had a number of opportunities during regulation and overtime, but none of them could connect. Panama did manage to frustrate the US, but not on defense. Their offense was fantastic on the counterattack. The US had to be missing Pope, because they seemed a little unsettled in the backfield. During the first 20 minutes of the second half this problem became obvious. Panama was just running over the US, but Kasey "Just try it" Keller was always there to bring US out of the fire.

The US managed to regain their composure and during the final 15 of regular time, they were on a mission. They kept prodding the Panamanian backline to see if it would give. A couple times it did falter but thanks to either dumb luck (which both sides had a great deal of) or the outstanding work of keeper Jaime Penedo, the US failed in their mission.

So it all came down to penalty kicks.

Now I'm the first to admit, penalty kicks are normally not the way you want to see a championship decided, but it made perfect sense on the night. Both sides played outstanding soccer and both could have ended up holding the cup, so why not let it come down to the coldness of kicks.

When Luis Tejada had Panama's first shot saved by Keller, it just seemed like this was going to go the US's way. The amount of energy a save like that gives a team is immeasurable. Santino Quaranta stepped up for the US and smashed in their first attempt, placing all the heat on Panama. Jorge Dely Valdes smacked the crossbar meaning the US could go up 2 goals. Chris Armas tried to fool Penedo with a stutter kick, but ended up kicking it right to the keeper.
Fellpe Baloy tied it at a goal apiece, but Landon Donovan did not let that stand for long. He buried his shot into the left side of the net. Then came the high-pressure moment for Panama. They had to knock in their next shot or else the US would be but a goal away from victory. Alberto Blanco stepped up, Keller dove the wrong way, and Blanco put his shot way over the crossbar. So Brad Davis could end it. He kicked right, Penedo dove right, but the shot was just an inch or two past his outstretched arm (see photo above). USA takes the Gold Cup!

This was the best match of the tournament.

On a side note, I predicted the US would win 3-1 and guess what, they did. Now granted I thought they would do it during regulation, but still, give me something. I'm going to be looking over my MLS picks (yeah, the ones that I got almost 100% wrong), so let me feel good about this moment.

Also, it seemed like the crowd was about 50-50 for the US and Panama. This was great to see.

Congratulations to the US men's team, CONCACAF Gold Cup Champions.



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