Well, Sunday’s Gold Cup final won’t be a Mexico-USA grudge match, but El Tri Nation must surely be satisfied with Wednesday’s results.
Mexico advanced to its third consecutive Gold Cup final with a hard-fought 3-0 victory over Jamaica, while Panama stunned the U.S. with a 5-4 penalty kick shootout triumph. The Canaleros will play in their second final (they lost to Team USA in the 2013 Copa Oro).
El Tri jumped Jamaica right from the opening whistle, taking the lead just 81 seconds into the match. After a Jamaica free kick, Luis Romo led a breakout, Jesús Gallardo tracked down his diagonal pass then zipped a low cross into the box that Henry Martín controlled and punched home.
Luis Chávez extended the lead at the half-hour mark with a brilliant free kick reminiscent of his blast against Saudi Arabia in the World Cup.
El Tri survives Reggae Boyz revival
After generating only one shot in the first half, Jamaica came out on its front foot after the break. Sloppy play in midfield by El Tri and the occasionally panicky clearance, allowed the islanders to exert pressure on Mexico’s defense.
The Reggae Boyz flowed forward with purpose, their speed and strength on full display. Fortunately for Guillermo Ochoa, Johan Vásquez and César Montes held firm at the back with Luis Romo providing sturdy support in front of them.
As the clock ticked down, Jamaica grew more frustrated leading to poor execution in the final third.
Ochoa only faced two shots in the second half, though there were nervy moments throughout.
Three minutes into stoppage time, sub Roberto Alvarado put the icing on the cake, slotting home a Gallardo cross at the back post.
Mexico finished the game with a 13-8 advantage in shots, 5-3 in shots on goal. El Tri is now 22-5-3 (73 goals for, 15 goals against) against Jamaica.
Panama shows poise, ousts favorites
After the way Team USA rampaged through the group stage, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that they would be in Los Angeles to defend their Gold Cup title.
But that proved to be a premature conclusion as the Americans were forced into a shootout after a 2-2 draw against Canada in the quarterfinals.
Wednesday’s semifinal went the same route.
After a scoreless 90 minutes, Iván Anderson thought he’d won it for Panama in the first extra time, only for Jesus Ferreira to know things shortly thereafter.
The contest went to a shootout and Panama’s Orlando Mosquera played the hero, stopping two shots. When Adalberto Carrasquilla converted his team’s sixth shot, the Central Americans had knocked off the new Concacaf giants (Yes, this was a U.S. B team, but they were still the tournament favorites.)
The Gold Cup final will take place at SoFi Stadium on Sunday and El Tri will be going for a record ninth trophy. Panama and Mexico last met on June 18 in the Concacaf Nations League consolation match. El Tri won 1-0 with a goal by Jesús Gallardo.