Saturday July 25th, 2015

CHESTER, Pa.—The U.S. completed a thoroughly disappointing Gold Cup by losing to Panama on penalties after a 1–1 tie to finish in fourth place in CONCACAF’s biannual tournament on Saturday.

Panama took the lead in the 55th minute through Roberto Nurse, only to have the USA equalizer 15 minutes later on a combination from second-half subs DeAndre Yedlin and Clint Dempsey. The latter's goal was his tournament-leading seventh, and he made an instant impact off the bench against Panama just like he did in the group stage.

The U.S., in its first penalty shootout in 10 years (also against Panama, in the 2005 Gold Cup final), wilted, though, as Fabian Johnson, Michael Bradley and DaMarcus Beasley all failed to convert from the spot, allowing Los Canaleros to medal. Beasley could have been playing in the final U.S. match of his career, and if it was, it's a harsh way to go out.

• MORE GOLD CUP: USA vs. Panama live blog | Full results, schedule

Here are my three thoughts on the game:

The U.S. avoided any red cards and injuries. More important than winning the game was making sure that no U.S. players earned a red card and would be suspended for the one-game Confederations Cup playoff on October 9 against Mexico or Jamaica. The second-most important thing was avoiding any serious injuries. Mission accomplished on both fronts.

Jurgen Klinsmann will have plenty of pressure in October. There’s a section of U.S. fans who will say this meaningless third-place game reveals something important about Klinsmann or his team. It doesn’t. But the U.S.’s struggles in the rest of this tournament are cause for concern. With its A-squad together, the U.S. failed to produce a consistently cohesive attack, and the back line struggled, particularly Timmy Chandler, John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado. Klinsmann will be in serious hot water if the U.S. doesn’t win the Confederations Cup playoff, but U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said after the game that Klinsmann is still his guy even if the U.S. loses that game in October.

Storylines to watch. The U.S. has never had a serious goalkeeper battle since Tim Howard became the No. 1. But that figures to be the case now that Howard has announced he’s returning from his one-year sabbatical. Brad Guzan wasn’t at his best in the U.S. loss to Jamaica, but he had a good game facing a lot of shots on Saturday. How will Klinsmann handle Howard’s return? We’ll see as soon as the September home friendlies against Peru and Brazil … Will DeAndre Yedlin continue to improve? Yedlin had a terrific assist on Clint Dempsey’s goal. Yedlin may be turning the corner by adding better decision-making to his remarkable athleticism, and you’d think Klinsmann would have to consider him as a starter.

• MORE GOLD CUP: Controversy clouds flawed CONCACAF Gold Cup again

Much of that will depend on whether Yedlin is getting playing time at the club level … Will Geoff Cameron be brought back onto the national team? And what about a player like José Torres, who’s starting for a team (Tigres) that’s in the Copa Libertadores final?

PODCAST: Making sense of, processing Gold Cup semifinal chaos

GALLERY: U.S. Soccer in 2015

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