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Panama push past United States in penalties

The magic of the Gold Cup!
The magic of the Gold Cup!
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Though neither side was particularly pleased about it, the United States and Panama played in the Gold Cup Third-Place Game on Saturday.

In a game as uneventful as it was long, Panama scored bronze after defeating the U.S. in penalties, 3-2.

The match got off to a rather unpleasant start, showcasing some disjointed play and poor refereeing. Panama, who were screwed over so badly on Wednesday that the entire team charged the referee after the final whistle, got the majority of the calls early on. Though the foul count evened out over time, Panamanian players practically called their own fouls in the early going.

Panama peppered the American goal in the first half, though more than a few of those attempts were from long range. In the 12th minute, left back Erick Davis came over to the right side to take a long free kick. His in-swinging, near-post service found Rolando Blackburn close to goal, but he couldn't get enough of a touch on the ball to worry the United States.

25 minutes later, a storming run from Armando Cooper that started in his own half finished in his opponents' 18-yard box. Unfortunately for him, he couldn't beat the last man after blowing by nearly half a dozen white kits. The midfielder tried to coolly roll one to the far post after 'keeper Brad Guzan had come off his line, but Tim Ream was there to keep Panama off the scoreboard.

Roberto Nurse and Rolando Blackburn were tasked with scoring Panama's goals on Saturday. In for the first-choice duo of Luis Tejada (suspended) and Blas Perez (coach's decision), the two played together until the 88th minute, when Blackburn was take out of Abdiel Arroyo. Though Nurse and Blackburn combined for Panama's opener, neither performed rather well. Whether their combined 11 attempts were shanked or blasted well wide from distance, the pair's shooting was just not lethal enough on a night when the U.S. were more than willing to let them fire away.

In the 55th minute, Nurse put Panama in front. The striker desecrated half of the United States' back line with a simple cut, giving him the time, space, and angle to curl one into the far post, past an outstretched and helpless Brad Guzan.

Shortly after the goal, Jurgen Klinsmann subbed on Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin, who, among other things, added a certain competence that his side had lacked for the hour prior. The two combined for the equalizer ten minutes later. Michael Bradley played a lofted ball to Yedlin, who used his speed to bound past his opponent, his chest to control the ball, his strength to hold off his man, and his brain to lay it off to his former club teammate, Clint Dempsey. Yedlin's superb effort was converted into a goal, as Dempsey bounced one home.

Panama had another chance before extra time, when a header off a corner kick forced a diving kick-save from Fabian Johnson in the 81st minute.

DaMarcus Beasley, who Klinsmann said would play in the second half, came on at the start of extra time. While this was supposed to be the winger's last game in his storied international career, comments from Klinsmann after the game suggested otherwise.

"I don't know if you can go out like that," Klinsmann said to Beasley after the game. "We might have to get you back in."

Extra time was as clunky as the 90 minutes before it. Center backs Tim Ream and John Brooks picked up noticeable injuries that hampered them for much of the final 30 minutes, and the United States was lucky not to have conceded because of them.

Luis Mejia, in goal for Panama after Jaime Penedo was suspended, came up huge in the penalty shootout, saving the final two penalties in spectacular fashion. DaMarcus Beasley took--and failed to convert--his team's final penalty, adding further to the notion that this won't be his final international game.

12,598 paid to see this game, but far fewer showed up to PPL Park on Saturday. The discouraging turnout was likely prompted by the United States' shocking loss on Wednesday, but it was jarring nonetheless. A U.S. friendly at a similar time would likely fetch a sellout crowd. That a third-place game could not speaks to what this game meant to the fans. Sadly, that apathy is shared by the players.