CHICAGO -- Second-half substitute Brek Shea scored only seconds after he came on to boost the United States to a 1-0 victory over Panama in the 12th CONCACAF Gold Cup final before a crowd of 57,920 at Soldier Field.
The win clinched a spot for the U.S. in a playoff against the 2015 Gold Cup champion for a berth at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
The Americans now have five Gold Cup titles (1991, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2013), one less than record-holder Mexico.
U.S. midfielder-forward Landon Donovan, who finished with five goals and a tournament-high seven assists, was awarded the Golden Ball as the tournament’s most outstanding player. Teammate Chris Wondolowski and Panama’s Gabriel Torres also finished with five goals apiece.
Shea snapped a scoreless deadlock in the 69th minute, shortly after replacing Joe Corona. The play started with Alejandro Bedoya delivering a cross from the right-wing that Donovan dummied. Shea broke free of his marker and simply slotted the ball into the left side of the net past goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
For the second time in this competition, the Stoke City midfielder came off the bench to spark his side in a tight game. Only minutes after entering the field against Costa Rica in the final Group C match on July 16, the 23-year-old broke a scoreless tie to give the U.S. a 1-0 win.
Until Shea's goal against Panama, the championship match proved to be a tactical battle that placed a premium on scoring chances.
Panama's Marcos Sanchez had the first opportunity when his shot sailed over the crossbar in the 10th minute.
Donovan offered the Americans their first concrete look at the net eleven minutes after the interval, but his header went wide left.
The U.S. lost midfielder Stuart Holden, who had recently recovered from long-term knee injuries, to a sprained right knee in the 23rd minute. Mix Diskerud replaced him.
It was the second time that the U.S. and Panama met in a Gold Cup final. In 2005, the Americans captured the trophy 3-1 on penalty kicks after a scoreless draw. Each of the seven all-time meetings between them in the competition have been decided by one goal or less.