[USA-PANAMA REPORT CARD] The USA gained revenge for a 2-1 loss to Panama in group play by posting a 1-0 win with a Clint Dempsey goal in the
Gold Cup semifinals. Strong games by several players, and a great return to the national team for Freddy Adu -- last seen playing for the USA at the 2009 Gold Cup -- propelled the
Americans into another final against archrival Mexico. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney grades the U.S. players.
Rating Player (Club) GP/G
7 Tim Howard (Everton/ENG) 64/0. Spectacular fingertip save on a rising laser from Armando Cooper in the 70th minute kept the game scoreless, and a late save on a low shot from distance smothered Panama’s final chance. Howard also cleanly handled a short-hop at the near post, and came out quickly to punch clear a cross with some swerve on it. Jawed with Luis Tejada when the forward tried to disrupt his attempt to throw a ball upfield.
6 Steve Cherundolo (Hannover/GER) 71/2. Was caught upfield twice when Panama overloaded his side: Alberto Quintero narrowly missed Nelson Barahona’s driven centering ball, and Howard saved Cooper’s shot. Otherwise, he tucked inside to win second balls and clear out scrambles, pushed balls upfield and followed them to join the attack, and curled an excellent cross that Agudelo headed off the post. Stood over Luis Tejada and barked at him for diving.
6 Clarence Goodson (Broendby/DEN) 14/3. A monster in the air repelling the high balls that came his way, he also cleared a very dangerous centering pass with a slide tackle that got the ball out of the penalty area. A few times he waded into furious melees to block a shot or hack away a loose ball. Late in the first half he overran the play and gave away a free kick near the penalty area with a risky tackle. In the final minutes failed to reach a long throw-in that bounced for a shot Panama put over the bar.
7 Carlos Bocanegra (St. Etienne/FRA) 92/12. Played perhaps his best game of the tournament. He slid left to cover for Lichaj when U.S. rotated up that side, stepped up into midfield to win balls played behind Bradley and Jones, stayed connected with Goodson to constrict space in the middle and also chased down the occasional long ball played over the top. Cautioned for a challenge on Quintero. He timed his challenges in the air well and usually got good distance on his clearances.
6 Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa/ENG) 7/0. Gave the attack width from his left-back position while monitoring Panama’s tendency to send Quintero, Barahona, and Adolfo Machado into the attack. Curled in a couple of balls that Panama failed to clear cleanly, one fell for Jones to strike at goal, also delivered a few effective long throw-ins. Hit an excellent ball across the goalmouth early in the second half that nobody could quite reach.
7 Jermaine Jones (Blackburn/ENG) 10/1. Another warrior performance stifled Panama by rugged battling and relentless workrate. Shook off a fierce foul early in each half that hobbled him for a minute but didn’t diminish his effectiveness. Took a pair of left-footed, first-time shots on partial clearances that went wide (once via a teammate’s deflection). Ran a ball deep into Panama’s half to kill time late in the match, sent ball to Cherundolo for cross that Agudelo headed off the post.
5 Michael Bradley (Aston Villa/ENG) 58/8. Cut down on the turnovers that plagued his performance against Jamaica, but still he occasionally hit a languid or misdirected pass. Strong and determined in the tackle, he simply overpowered or outfought opponents to win balls in critical situations. Hit a nice crossfield ball that Dempsey headed for Agudelo but keeper Jaime Penedo got there first. In the final minutes Bradley passed up a chance to shoot and instead played a pass that was intercepted.
6 Alejandro Bedoya. (Orebro/SWE) 12/0. Seldom given much time or space to show his trickery, he tested Panama often by hard running and sharp touches. Also vied for head balls and won a few of them against bigger, stronger opponents to put chances in threatening situations. Served a nice cross that a teammate headed just behind Dempsey, worked a combination with Agudelo and Cherundolo that Panama stopped with a desperate tackle at the edge of the penalty area.
4 Sacha Kljestan. (Anderlecht/BEL) 31/4. Struggled to find his place in the attack as he and Bedoya and Dempsey circulated to support each other and Agudelo. Gave an honest effort but was often either a step behind the play or hesitant at the critical moment. Dived into a couple of tackles aggressively to blunt Panama’s attempts to transition quickly after winning the ball, but wasn’t able to work free to hit crosses or find shots.
7 Clint Dempsey (Fulham/ENG) 76/22. Ranged all over the attacking third to stretch and pull the Panamanian back line, got up wincing after several hard fouls but played to the final whistle. Headed down crosses for teammates, nearly broke through on a one-two with Agudelo but was tripped up on a no-call. Scored with another vintage finish at the back post, lunging to get his foot to the ball and prodding it home from a few yards out.
5 Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls) 9/2. Crowded off the ball a few times, he nevertheless carved out chances for his teammates after being flattened going for a through ball in the first minute. Hit post with a diving header in the 25th minute. Put Dempsey through early in the second half but an opponent’s unpunished trip killed the opportunity.
6 Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy) 135/45). Slow to stamp his influence as a halftime sub but found more room on the right side. His seeing-eye pass through the ankles of an opponent provided Dempsey with his chance. Donovan helped run down the clock and also set up Dempsey with a ball he couldn’t nick through a challenge.
6 Freddy Adu (Rizespor/TUR) 16/2. After hitting a superb diagonal ball from the center circle to set in motion the U.S. scoring play, he gave away two balls that could have been costly, then finished strong with some determined possession play. Left-footed corner kick wasn’t bad even though it was headed clear.
(1-low; 5=average; 10=high.)