Jurgen Klinsmann still isn’t sure how his US team that beat the Dutch and Germans last month wound up fourth in the Gold Cup after two embarrassing defeats.
But after Panama beat the Americans 3-2 on penalty kicks Saturday after a 1-1 draw to take third place in the biennial North American regional football tournament, the former German star vowed his team will bounce back.
We could have won this tournament. We didn’t – Jurgen Klinsmann
“We could have won this tournament. We didn’t,” Klinsmann said. “We will take our lessons from this, analyze it and talk to the players. This is a work in progress.”
Just four days earlier, Jamaica stunned the Americans 2-1 in a semi-final. The “Reggae Boyz,” who meet six-time champion Mexico in Sunday’s Gold Cup final, were 1-13 with eight draws in prior matches against the Americans, who suffered their first home loss to a Caribbean side since falling to Haiti in 1969.
Panama, now 1-12 with four drawn against the USA, completed the humiliation with its shoot-out victory, the US fourth-place showing marking its second-worst in Gold Cup history after a 2000 quarter-final loss to Colombia on penalties.
. “We learn from the negatives, take the positives and move on,” US striker DeAndre Yedlin said. “I want to stay positive. Any time you play with pressure it helps.”
Panama won with starting goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and top scorer Luis Tejada suspended after angry actions in a controversial 2-1 semi-final loss to Mexico that inspired coach Hernan Gomez’s squad.
“It was important to get this result,” said Gomez. “It was hard on the group. There is no such thing as a moral victory. We were ready to hoist the trophy.
“This is a good Gold Cup for Panama. They played with a lot of skill and are playing well going into World Cup qualifying. My goal is still to take this group to the World Cup and we made some steps in that direction.”
Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying begins in November, a fact that might give the US team pause after its latest setbacks.
“This is what it’s going to be like in qualifying,” veteran US defender DaMarcus Beasley said. “These games are never easy.”
Reserve goalkeeper Luis Mejia heroics wins it for Panama
Panama took a 1-0 lead only to surrender the next goal in the second half for the sixth match in a row, Roberto Nurse striking for Panama in the 55th minute only to see Clint Dempsey pull the hosts level in the 70th. Extra time saw no scoring but lots of shoving in an incident that brought three yellow cards.
With Penedo out, it was reserve goalkeeper Luis Mejia who denied the last three US shooters in the penalties showdown to win for Panama.
Aron Johannsson and Dempsey scored for the Americans while Roman Torres and Abdiel Arroyo answered for Panama in the shoot-out.
Fabian Johnson sent his shot over the crossbar but US goalkeeper Brad Guzan responded by diving right to deny Armando Cooper and keep the shoot-out level.
Mejia then dove right to stop US captain Michael Bradley and after Panama’s Harold Cummings scored, Mejia denied DaMarcus Beasley to spark a Panamanian celebration.
It was the first penalty shoot-out for the Americans since they beat Panama 3-1 in the 2005 Gold Cup final. The US also beat Panama 1-0 in last year’s Gold Cup final.
The Americans have September friendlies against Brazil and Peru and an playoff match for a 2017 Confederations Cup berth against either Jamaica or Mexico on October before starting their bid to qualify for an eighth consecutive World Cup on November 13.