Panama prevails over U.S. on PKs for third place

Players from Panama (pictured) rush to celebrate after capturing third place in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Photo: Mexsport)

CHESTER, Pennsylvania – Panama outlasted the United States 3-2 on penalty kicks to capture third place in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup after they played to a 1-1 draw on Saturday at PPL Park.

For the sixth time in as many editions of the competition, the Panamanians concluded their campaign with a meeting against the U.S. and, even though the result is recorded officially as a draw, this was the first time they prevailed over that stretch. The setback marked the only occasion in the Gold Cup's 24-year history that the five-time champion has gone winless in two straight matches.

In an encounter characterized by halves contested at noticeably different levels of intensity, Roberto Nurse gave the Central Americans a second-half lead, before Clint Dempsey leveled with his tournament-leading seventh goal ten minutes after he entered as a substitute.

Although the opening half was disputed in a fashion representative of two teams still trying to overcome disappointing semifinal losses, Panama nearly took a 1-0 lead in the 37th minute. Armando Cooper danced into the left side of the U.S. box and then used the outside of his right foot to beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan. The hustling Tim Ream, however, swooped instinctively to clear the ball off the line.

Six minutes after the break, the USA’s Timmy Chandler delivered a right-sided cross into the box for Chris Wondolowski. Despite barely glancing off the top his head, the ball flashed surprisingly just past the left post.

Similar to Ream, Fabian Johnson prevented the Americans from falling behind, blocking Rolando Blackburn’s powerful header just a yard from the goal line.

Nurse, though, would not be denied in the 54th minute. After skipping past Ream and John Brooks in the right side of the box, he planted a coolly taken left-footed shot inside the far post from 14-yards out.

Panama then generated a trio of opportunities that should have put the game away.

Defender Roman Torres, venturing far up the field, missed wide of the left post off a Nurse header played back into his path. Nurse then headed high over the crossbar, before Alfredo Stephens decided to shoot from outside the box rather than exploring an open option to his left. 

The U.S. leveled in the 70th minute thanks to some timely teamwork and admirable effort. Aron Johannsson, an influential figure throughout the afternoon, played a superb ball into the box for a moving Yedlin. The 22-year-old chested it down, attracted the attention of three defenders and smartly located Dempsey coming in from the right. The Seattle Sounders star slid at the ball from 13 yards, directing it into the right side of the net with his right foot. 

From that point through the completion of extra time, Panama probably considered itself unlucky not to get on the scoreboard again.

Guzan thwarted Blackburn in the 81st minute, while denying Nurse in the 108th and 111th minutes with a pair of tremendous stops. 

In the penalty-kick shootout, the U.S. and Panama were even at 2-2 after two rounds. Johnson missed for the Americans and Guzan then saved Cooper’s try. Proceedings changed as Panama goalkeeper Luis Mejia made a save on Michael Bradley. The 2013 runner-up went ahead through Harold Cummings and ultimately obtained another prominent place on the podium, when Mejia stopped DaMarcus Beasley. 

Jamaica and Mexico will square off in the final on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.