Jozy Altidore scored in the 66th minute. (Gary Rohman/MLS/USA TODAY Sports)
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The United States made it three-for-three in Group D of the Concacaf Gold Cup with a 3-0 victory over Panama Wednesday night.
Jozy Altidore tallied the lone goal of the match before 17,037 fans at Children’s Mercy Park.
The Americans (3-0-0, 9 points) kept clean sheets in all three matches for the second time in history while also finishing with a plus 11 goal differential, the team’s best mark in a Gold Cup group stage.
The USA and Panama (2-1-0, 6) advanced to take on the second and first place teams from Group C, respectively. In Group C, Curaçao (1-1-1, 4) grabbed a second-place finish, thanks to a last-second goal from Jurien Gaari that earned the island nation a 1-1 tie with group winners Jamaica (1-0-2, 5) on the final match day and a date with the USA in the tournament quarterfinals.
Both sides fielded revamped lineups compared to their first two group games with U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter making wholesale changes to the Starting XI, which had remained unchanged through the opening two matches. The U.S. was not without experience on the field, however, as Altidore (113 caps), captain for the match Omar Gonzalez (51) and Jordan Morris (30) bolstered a lineup that included Gold Cup debutants Daniel Lovitz and Jonathan Lewis.
The USA amassed two-thirds of the possession and played a majority of the game in midfield and their offensive third, while limiting Panama to the odd counter attack and one shot on target. With more than 20 touches in the Panama penalty area, the U.S. attack needed the first half to find its cutting edge as Altidore sent the Americans’ two best chances of the opening 45 minutes wide of the left post and directly at goalkeeper José Calderón.
On the half-hour mark, Djordje Mihailovic put Lewis in on goal but the pass forced the speedy winger to slow up entering the box, and his shot was blocked by recovering Panama defender Fidel Escobar.
While the game got stretched in the final 10 minutes of the opening half, resulting in U.S. goalkeeper Sean Johnson making the one save he was called upon to make in the match, he and the USA defense hunkered down after the break to provide the U.S. the stability it needed to attack at will.
The U.S. defense also played a role in the game winning goal as center back Matt Miazga got on the end of Mihailovic’s corner kick and headed it toward goal, causing a poor clearance from Kevin Galván that Altidore capitalized on in the 66th minute to score the game-winner.