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US outlast Panama on penalties in Gold Cup

The United States outlasted Panama on penalty kicks 3-1 to win their third Concacaf Gold Cup on Sunday, prevailing over the Central Americans after 120 minutes of goalless soccer.

Brad Davis rolled a left-footer just inside the right post to clinch the victory and prevent Panama from becoming the smallest country to win the crown.

It was the second straight time and third overall that the title match was forced into extra time, and the second time the crown was decided by penalties. The US beat Honduras on penalties to win the inaugural title in 1991.

”You don’t get many opportunities to win anything as professionals, so you have to take advantage when you have it,” US forward Landon Donovan said.

Santino Quaranta, Donovan and Davis converted their penalty chances, while US goalkeeper Kasey Keller blocked Luis Tejada’s attempt, Jorge Dely Valdes hit the crossbar and Alberto Blanco put his shot high.

It was the second time Panama were forced into penalties in the tournament, having beaten South Africa in the quarterfinals 5-3 after a 1-1 draw.

”The heart was in the middle of it. The players took it to the last,” Panama coach Jose Hernandez said. ”It did not turn out like it did against South Africa, but that’s how it goes.”

The US, who climbed to sixth in the Fifa rankings this week, had more possession and better-quality chances throughout, but were frustrated by Panama, a nation of 3,1-million that is 83rd in the rankings.

Panama played only once before in the Gold Cup, getting eliminated after the first round in 1993.

The match was the fourth meeting between the US and Panama in nine months, the previous three in World Cup qualifying. The two drew 1-1 in September in Panama City, but the Americans won the last two by a combined 9-0 score.

Extra time produced nervous moments for both sides, first when Panama defender Carlos Rivera nearly turned a Davis cross into an own goal in the 101st minute, and then a minute later when Blanco shot just wide of the left post.

The US tested Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, who was selected to the Gold Cup’s all-tournament team. He dived to get his fingertips to push wide a shot by John O’Brien in the 23rd minute, and another diving save denied Davis in the 109th.

”I don’t think we were frustrated, but at different times some guys were fresh and other guys were tired,” Donovan said. ”But if we finish better, it’s a different game.”

Penedo used a reflex save to push Clint Dempsey’s header from 9m over the bar in the 38th, and the Panama goalkeeper also thwarted DaMarcus Beasley in the 41st after he was sent in alone off a backward header by Josh Wolff.

”At the end of the first half, the attacks by the US were stronger,” Penedo said. ”We just had to calm ourselves.”

Panama largely were limited to counterattacks, and seriously threatened only a handful of times. Their best chance came in the 75th when Dely Valdes managed to get to a cross but his lunging shot bounced off the crossbar.

The US were without manager Bruce Arena, who was ejected from Thursday’s semifinal victory over Honduras because of dissent.

”It was a war of attrition; fatigue sets in,” said Glenn ”Mooch” Myernick, who managed the US team in Arena’s absence. ”Today was a fair number of poor finishing, some sloppy play; it was a hot day.” — Sapa-AP

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