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Panama in, Mexico out: Canaleros move into Gold Cup final

Jul 25, 2013, 12:47 AM EDT

Panama's Perez and Godoy celebrate goal against Panama during CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match in Arlington Reuters

For a moment in the first half, right after Panama made it clear a second Gold Cup win over Mexico was as much a probability as a possibility, El Tri seemed to wake up. They played with some of the skill and passion many expected a team with of their quality to carry throughout the tournament, even if most of their Gold Cup has been as meek as their World Cup Qualifying campaign. Yet by the time halftime rolled around, Panama again looked more likely to join the United States in Sunday’s final, an appearance the bore out over the match’s final 45 minutes.

With goals from Blas Pérez and Roman Torres on each side of half time, Panama secured their second ever competitive win over Mexico, replicating their group stage triumph to clinch a place in Sunday’s Gold Cup final. The Canaleros‘ second finals appearance comes eight years after their first, with the team set to meet a United States side that defeated them on penalty kicks eight years ago.

Pérez opened the scoring early. Teammate Alberto Quintero took the ball from Mexico midfielder Alejandro Castro at the edge of El Tri’s defensive third, exchanged passes with Pérez, then played the FC Dallas striker in to the right of goal. Pérez’s high, near post finish past Jonathan Orozco gave the Panamanians a 13th minute lead.

The advantage proved short-lived, as Mexico took the possession advantage they’d held through the opening whistle and started converting it into pressure. Eventually Marco Fabián, one of El Tri’s few bright spots this tournament, created a change for Luis Montes, chippping from the left of the area to set up Montes’s equalizing header in the 26th minute.

That score held for the next 35 minutes until Panama won a corner along their left just past hour mark. Restarting play, Gabriel Torres swung a ball in to the edge of the six-yard box, in the middle of goal, where Roman Torres had beat Joel Huiqui. Running onto an easy finish, the Panamanian defender put his team into their second Gold Cup final.

As with every Mexico disappointment, the loss is sure to increase pressure on head coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre, even though Mexico brought a diminished squad into the tournament. El Tri’s first two losses to Panama are unlikely to be taken in stride, though. At a minimum, the heat gets turned up yet another notch on the embattled coach.

As for Panama, Julio Dely Valdés’s team has a chance to make history. Only Mexico, the U.S. and Canada have ever claimed a Gold Cup, and while they’re sure to be seen as underdogs ahead of Sunday’s game in Chicago, Panama’s undefeated in the competition, scoring 11 times while conceding only three goals.

If they beat the U.S. it will be an upset, but from a team whose play transcends their renown, a victory for Panama would hardly be a shock.

  1. footballer4ever - Jul 25, 2013 at 1:10 AM

    Congratulations, Panama National Football Team! You desire to grow and develop into a strong footballing nation is to fully admire and respect you!

  2. hildezero - Jul 25, 2013 at 1:15 AM

    I was born in Mexico and grew up in USA and I gotta say…

    HELL YEAH!!!

    This was a great day for me because i’m a US Soccer fan and love when Mexico loses. Although I would’ve liked to see a USA vs Mexico final, but oh well… Still a great day. :)

  3. slxc - Jul 25, 2013 at 1:25 AM

    Buen juego, vamos panama furia centroamericana.

  4. geojock - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    Although the mexico loss is great, it makes the final less exciting and I would have love to see the USA kill Mexico.

  5. jshalonzo - Jul 25, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    @hildezero…i feel you buddy. I’m a generation removed from Mexico, but I just cannot stand the fact that the Mexico fans throw stuff on the field at opposing players! Like they did against Costa Rica in the WCQ earlier this year. Which was s 0 – 0 draw BTW! Or at the end of the Panama game last night in a limited capacity. And those stupid green laser pointers they use. Don’t take it out on opposing players because your team can’t score goals!!!

  6. mkbryant3 - Jul 25, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    Yes, congratulations to the Canaleros. Gotta love that nickname. I still think the US should beat them, but Panama is surging in confidence. And, of course, according to pitcher Rivera, God is on their side. God, why do you always take sides? I thought you were the ultimate impartial witness. :-)

    I know this is solid B Mexican team, but wow, what has happened to that team? This is not the Mexico we know. No flair or technical skill in this team. Just lackadaisical play. They’ll be back.

    With the US’s play, I feel like I’m living in a dream. When they lose the ball, they just swarm the ball to win it back. It’s a delight to see. Kudos to Klinsmann, too, whose head I was calling for after the Belgium game. And LD, nuff said. Best ever US player. Anyone who no denies his still is just being superficial. Responding 1 min after Honduras’s goal just said it all about LD and this team.

    • charliej11 - Jul 25, 2013 at 2:46 PM

      LD has 5 goals and 7 assists. The next highest assist total for all the Gold Cup players…2.

      19 goals for the US, so he has been involved in 12 out of 19 goals. With a few probably against Belize when he wasn’t playing. Without him, I don’t think the US is eeking out victories to try to get to the final. Did you see the team after he sat ?

      • charliej11 - Jul 25, 2013 at 2:48 PM

        Should be I DO think the US is eeking out victories…

      • randomhookup - Jul 25, 2013 at 6:05 PM

        LD went 90 against Belize. Last night was his first sub out.

    • boscoesworld - Jul 25, 2013 at 3:20 PM

      That’s funny because I thought the Belgium game was brilliant!! It was a test for the MNT against one of the best attacking teams in the world. They play quickly and move, move, move without the ball. It was a great example of what our team should be doing on offense and not doing on defense. That is why JK schedules those games. We Americans take results from friendlies way too seriously.

  7. hildezero - Jul 26, 2013 at 1:24 AM

    @jshalonzo

    That’s what’s up!

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