Panama certainly proved worthy and stingy opposition for a United States side that had mowed down the Gold Cup field prior to Sunday’s final in Chicago, if only for the Central Americans’ ability to make a wet blanket out of this one. The match defined “stalemate” for more than 70 minutes.
So there wasn’t much to choose from in terms of U.S. Man of the Match.
Alejando Bedoya did as much as anyone in attempting to open up the congestion with a little dose of variety here and there. And it was Bedoya (pictured, on the left) who supplied the centering pass into such an inviting area than turned into Brek Shea’s piece-of-cake tap-in, the game-winner. (In fact, the ball was probably going in, ushered along by Landon Donovan’s accidental dummy; Shea probably would have been wiser to let that ball meander in on its own, subtracting any chance for an offside verdict.)
Bedoya was the best U.S. man in the first half. Not because he did anything extraordinary, but because he did something. Starting as the right-sided man in the U.S. 4-4-2, Bedoya found some space inside here and there, cutting toward the middle to create a shot (including one deflection that nearly sneaked in) or looking to combine with Eddie Johnson or Landon Donovan.
Again, there wasn’t much there as Panama frequently had all 11 players within 40-50 yards of its goal. Just ask Donovan, who was seeing precious little of the ball, or Johnson, who needed to drift well out wide to find any possession. Or ask Joe Corona, who played Bedoya’s left-sided opposite and found little joy at all. He gave way after about 70 minutes to Shea.
Late in the match, Bedoya wisely chose possession over something more chancy and adventurous as the United States embraced the stalemate, demonstrating some wile and looking to finish off the tournament.