The U.S. men's national team already knew it was advancing to the knockout stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage as the Group A winner, but that didn't prevent its group finale against Panama from being a hotly contested battle.
The two sides, who played in the 2013 Gold Cup final, played to a 1-1 draw at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas, Monday night, with the Americans coming from behind to end group play with a 2-0-1 mark ahead of Saturday's quarterfinal match. Panama awaits its fate, as three points may not be enough to get it through as one of the top two third-place finishers. Haiti secured a surprise second-place finish in the group after a 1-0 win over Honduras earlier on Tuesday.
Panama struck first in the Group A nightcap, getting a goal from FC Dallas star forward Blas Perez in the 34th minute. The goal capped a series of play during which Panama had threatened the U.S. goal, and Los Canaleros finally broke through after Luis Tejada beat Ventura Alvarado to the end line. He squared for Perez, who had gotten in behind John Brooks and tapped in for the 1-0 lead.
Michael Bradley answered in the 55th minute, though, one-timing a pinpoint cross through traffic from Alejandro Bedoya, who was getting his first minutes of the competition after sitting out the opening matches against Honduras and Haiti.
Brad Guzan, making his third straight start in goal, came up big to preserve the point with a clutch save as the second half wound down. Guzan made a diving stop and got an outstretched arm to Miguel Camargo's redirected effort after a near-post run to cap a Panama counterattack.
Despite the game not meaning anything to the USA in the group standings after already clinching first place in the first two games, Jurgen Klinsmann opted to start Brooks, even though he was sitting on a yellow card. That move backfired early when he picked up another in the 16th minute, which will rule him out of the quarterfinals.
Klinsmann can choose to make up to six substitutions to his roster now that the group stage is done, and he has until tomorrow night to do so, according to CONCACAF rules.
Here's how the USA's Gold Cup group finale unfolded:
GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)
DEFENDERS: Ventura Alvarado (Club America), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Greg Garza (Atlas), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers)
MIDFIELDERS: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
GOALKEEPERS: Jose Calderon (Coatepeque); Luis Mejia (CA Fenix); Jaime Penedo (LA Galaxy)
DEFENDERS: Harold Cummings (Independiente Santa Fe); Erick Davis (Sporting San Miguelito); Luis Henriquez (Lech Poznan); Adolfo Machado (Saprissa); Angel Patrick (Arabe Unido); Roman Torres (Millonarios)
MIDFIELDERS: Miguel Camargo (Chorrillo FC); Armando Cooper (FC St. Pauli); Anibal Godoy (Budapest Honved); Gabriel Gomez (Herediano); Valentin Pimentel (Plaza Amador); Darwin Pinzon (Sporting San Miguelito); Alberto Quintero (Lobos BUAP); Alfredo Stephens (Chorrillo FC)
FORWARDS: Abdiel Arroyo (Arabe Unido); Rolando Blackburn (Comunicaciones); Roberto Nurse (Dorados Sinaloa); Blas Perez (FC Dallas); Luis Tejada (Juan Aurich); Gabriel Torres (Colorado Rapids)