The United States are champions of CONCACAF.
It had been six years since the Americans won the Gold Cup, having twice fallen to Mexico in the final since last lifting the trophy in 2007, but a 1-0 win over Panama in Sunday's final has them sitting atop the confederation once again. Brek Shea made the difference, coming off the bench and scoring in the 69th minute, less than 60 seconds after coming in, to deliver the winner for the Americans.
Shea came flying off the bench and seconds later, Alejandro Bedoya had the ball on the right, where he was able to find space before crossing to the near post. Landon Donovan was there and while his intended shot did not connect, he got enough of the ball to redirect it to the near post. That's right where Shea was making his run and all he had to do was tap the ball into the open net from two yards to ignite the pro-American crowd at Soldier Field.
There weren't a lot of bright moments from either team as organized defenses won the day. For long stretches it looked like a seri piece would have to make the difference or the two teams would go to penalties tied 0-0, just as they did in the 2005 final.
Panama did an excellent job of closing down the U.S. midfield and left them little room to turn. That slowed the Americans down and by the time they did work the ball forward, Panama had nine, if not 10 men behind the ball. There was no way through and the Canaleros did a greta job taking Donovan out of the match so all the possession the U.S. had -- it topped 80% for stretches -- didn't mean a thing.
An injury to Stuart Holden looked like it would only further hurt the U.S. as the midfielder had to be subbed off when a hard fall left him with a limp. But the Americans actually got better in Holden's absence as Mix Diskerud played fantastically in his stead.
The chances still didn't come for the U.S. Not from the run of play, or from set pieces. At least not until the 69th minute.
That's when Shea delivered the winner. That's when the U.S. set course for the podium and Gold Cup trophy. That's when the U.S. could reclaim their spot as champions of CONCACAF.