New England Soccer Today

California bound

In a match of limited opportunities, Clint Dempsey made his one chance count, scoring from close range after a fantastic set-up from Landon Donovan and Freddy Adu in the 77th minute. Dempsey’s goal would be all the U.S. needed to defeat Panama 1-0 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas and advance to the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final on Saturday.

Clint Dempsey scored in the second straight match for the U.S. (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/

Adu, who entered the match in the 66th minute for his first appearance for the U.S. since 2009, played a key role in the winning goal, picking out Donovan on the right flank with a long pass from midfield. The pacey Donovan then raced into the box before sending a pass in front of goal that found Dempsey at the far post. Dempsey stepped in front of his defender to direct the ball inside the near post to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead.

The U.S. started the match with just one change to the line-up that defeated Jamaica 2-0 in the quarterfinals on Sunday. Juan Agudelo got the start for the injured Jozy Altidore. Surprisingly, Donovan started on the bench for the second straight match.

The U.S. first threatened in the 17th minute when a cross from Alejandro Bedoya on the right flank found Dempsey charging towards the far post. Dempsey headed the ball back across frame where a charging Agudelo just missed redirecting the ball in before goalkeeper Jaime Penedo could collect it.

Agudelo nearly gave the U.S. the lead in the 25th minute after Steve Cherundolo found him with a cross at the near post. The 18-year-old Agudelo connected with a diving header, but saw his effort bounce off the crossbar and subsequently get cleared by Panama’s defense.

The U.S. would make a pair of changes in the second half to try to ignite the offense. Donovan entered the game for Sacha Kljestan at halftime, while Adu replaced Agudelo in the 66th minute. The pair would each play a key role in the game-winning goal.

Panama came close to taking the lead in the 61st minute when an early cross nearly connected with Alberto Quintero. Quintero used his pace to beat the U.S defense into the box, but the midfielder saw the ball go between his legs as he attempted to redirect the ball in from close range.

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard kept the match scoreless in the 71st minute when Armando Cooper broke behind the U.S. backline into the box and blasted a shot on frame. Howard managed to get a hand on the shot to tip it over the net and preserve the shutout.

Dempsey’s 77th minute goal would be the last major chance for either team in the match. The goal was the 22nd of the former New England Revolution midfielder’s international career, moving him ahead of Bruce Murray and placing him 5th all-time on the U.S. scoring charts, two behind former Revolution striker Joe-Max Moore.

The U.S. will now play either Honduras or Mexico in the Gold Cup Final on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. The game can be seen live on Fox Soccer Channel and Univsion.

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