CHICAGO – Brek Shea sure knows how to make an entrance.
A mere 42 seconds after coming into the match as a substitute Sunday, Shea pounced after Landon Donovan whiffed on a shot and poked the ball into the net. His goal in the 69th minute gave the United States a 1-0 victory over Panama and the CONCACAF Gold Cup title before a crowd of 57,920 at Soldier Field.
“I took a mighty swing at it and missed,” Donovan said.
It is the fifth Gold Cup title for the U.S. team, but its first since 2007. It also is the first international title as a coach for Jurgen Klinsmann.
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“It doesn’t matter who scored today,” Shea said. “We won.”
This was the 11th straight victory for the United States, four more than its previous record, and it likely will leapfrog Mexico as the best team from the North and Central America and Caribbean region when the next FIFA rankings come out Aug. 8.
When the final whistle sounded, the U.S. players on the field began celebrating while the rest of the team raced off the bench.
Klinsmann, who watched the match from a luxury box after being suspended for his tirade over the officiating in the 3-1 Gold Cup semifinal victory over Honduras, quickly made his way down to the field, pumping his fists in the air as he walked.
“They wanted to send out a signal that they are the best group in CONCACAF, and they are,” Klinsmann said. “For today.”
But the performance in this tournament is likely to stay with the U.S. team for a while — at least until the next round of World Cup qualifying in September.
The United States had a 6-0 record and outscored opponents 20-4 in the Gold Cup.
Despite his big whiff, Donovan was selected the Gold Cup’s most valuable player. He finished with five goals and seven assists, a particularly impressive performance considering it followed a four-month sabbatical over the winter that cost him his place on the national team.
Of his distant vantage point, Klinsmann said, “Watching the match was horrible.”
One setback for the United States was the loss of midfielder Stuart Holden with a right-knee injury Klinsmann said appeared to be “very serious.”