A year after a World Cup is a transitory phase for any national team, and the US exemplified this at the 2011 Gold Cup. After a shocking group stage loss to Panama – its first group stage loss ever in the tournament – the US earned a rematch in the semifinals, scraping by Guadeloupe and Jamaica.
Few things seemed settled for the US in this tournament. Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones didn’t played a full 90 together until the semifinals. Carlos Bocanegra slid back into the center to form a new partnership with Clarence Goodson. An injury to Jozy Altidore limited attacking options. Finally, there was the cognitive dissonance at Landon Donovan, substitute.
For the semifinals, Bradley switched from his familiar 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1, with Juan Agudelo replacing Altidore up top. The US performance improved from the first meeting, and Agudelo hit the post in the first half. Donovan entered the game for Sasha Kljestan at halftime, and Agudelo made way for Freddy Adu, fresh from the Turkish wilderness, with 25 minutes left.
The breakthrough arrived in the 76th minute. Bradley finds Bedoya pinched in from the right flank, and he dribbles around a man to find Adu near the center circle. Adu picks up his head and, with Dempsey and Jones charging ahead, leads Donovan with an excellent 45 yard pass out to the right flank. Donovan strolls in to the box with four touches, and hits a low far-post cross past four Panama defenders. Despite the numbers back, Dempsey found himself unmarked at the back post, and stretches with his left foot to guide the ball home.
The US won 1-0, and the goal highlighted accurately portrayed Donovan’s ability to find space outside with his pace and well-timed runs, and Dempsey’s uncanny skill of always moving .