The United States reached their fourth consecutive Concacaf Gold Cup final thanks to a Clint Dempsey goal which secured a 1-0 win for the hosts over Panama on Wednesday.
Dempsey struck in the 77th minute following a pass from Landon Donovan to avenge the U.S.’s 2-1 loss to Panama in the group stage.
“It wasn’t our best game but at the end of the day we kept going and got the goal needed to win the game,” Dempsey said. “All I had to do was put my foot on it.”
The U.S. squad will play Mexico in Saturday’s championship match at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. The Mexicans defeated Honduras 2-0 in the other semi-final on Wednesday.
Freddy Adu helped set up the winning goal with a long pass to Donovan at the Reliant Stadium.
Donovan, playing his 27th straight Gold Cup match, then played an inch-perfect pass across the Panama goal to Dempsey, who applied the finishing touch.
“We know that when we apply our game we are a pretty hard team to beat,” said 22-year-old Adu.
“I think we showed our quality in being able to grind out a result,” said Dempsey.
Panama’s loss was their fourth consecutive defeat to the United States in the knockout stages.
Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes said the United States had more energy Wednesday.
“It was a very intense game, very few chances for both teams,” Dely Valdes said. “I’m pleased with my team’s performance, they fought until the very end.”
Panama were without forward Blas Perez, sent off in his team’s quarter-final victory over El Salvador.
The U.S. were missing forward Jozy Altidore with a strained hamstring.
Altidore had scored two of the Americans’ six goals in the tournament.
He was injured in the ninth minute of the 2-0 victory against Jamaica at the weekend.
Dely Valdes said there was more parity in the tournament this year.
“The gap between the great teams and the up-and-comers has shrunk significantly,” he said. “Panama showed a very competitive level.”