Jozy Altidore’s second-half goal was the difference in the United States’ 1-0 victory over Panama at the Gold Cup on Wednesday night in Kansas City.
The win capped off a perfect group stage round for the US team at the Gold Cup, setting up a quarterfinal matchup with Curacao on Sunday.
Both Sides Empty the Bench to Rest Starters
Heading into the match, both sides had already clinched advancement to the quarterfinals. That allowed both teams to make numerous changes to their lineup, as there was only a minor advantage to winning the group: both the first and second place teams would be on the same side of the knockout bracket, and would avoid Mexico until the final.
In response, the United States rotated in an entirely new squad of 11 players after running the same lineup out for its first two matches. Panama only did slightly less, bringing in nine new men to start the game.
With many players getting their first runs of the tournament, the play was predictably disjointed. Both sides struggled to create chances, with only a few weak shots providing little trouble for either keeper.
That pattern continued into the second half, with US manager Gregg Berhalter even bringing on Cristian Pulisic in the 65th minute in an attempt to spark the offense.
Altidore Scores in First Start Since 2017
The United States would break through soon thereafter, though Pulisic wasn’t involved in the goal. A corner kick resulted in a scramble in front of the goal, during which Altidore was able to connect on a bicycle kick from a few feet out to give the Americans the only score of the match. The goal was Altidore’s 43rd in international play for the United States, third all-time behind Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, both of whom scored 57.
The score was a sweet one for Altidore, who hadn’t started for the US since 2017.
“It’s been a rough time waiting, just trying to get an opportunity to get out there and score in these colors again,” Altidore said after the match. “It means everything to me.”
The win wraps up a dominant group stage for the USA, which scored 11 goals without conceding one. Panama finished second in the group, and will face Jamaica in the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, the United States will face off with Curacao on Sunday in Philadelphia. Curacao made a surprising run to the knockout stage, scoring a win vs. Honduras and a draw with Jamaica to sneak through over El Salvador on goal differential. The victory over Honduras marked the first time the country had won a Gold Cup match since 1969, though the nation has been more competitive internationally in recent years.
The matchup is expected to be an easy one for the US. FanDuel Sportsbook has the Americans as a -800 favorite to win in regulation, and a -2400 pick to advance. The winner will face either Jamaica or El Salvador in the semifinal.
Overall, Mexico (1/1) remains the favorite to win the Gold Cup, according to William Hill. The United States (7/4) is the clear second choice, with Costa Rica (12/1) receiving relatively long odds after drawing Mexico in the quarterfinal round.