Coach Bob Bradley's decision to bring in Landon Donovan and Freddy Adu in the second-half paid off as they set up Clint Dempsey's goal
United States coach Bob Bradley pulled out all the cards on a bizarre night in the Lone Star State, and in the end, he looked like a genius.
After being frustrated by a disciplined Panama side, Bradley inserted Landon Donovan and Freddy Adu off the bench in the second-half and watched both players set up a Clint Dempsey goal to lift the US to a 1-0 victory at Reliant Stadium and advance to the Gold Cup final for the fourth straight time.
The Americans, who suffered an embarrassing defeat to Panama in the group stage, will play either Mexico or Honduras next weekend in Pasadena, Calif.
The US controlled possession early on but their only real scoring opportunity in the first-half came in the 25th minute when Steve Cherundolo played a nice ball to Juan Agudelo, who headed it off the post. They only had three shots in the first 45 minutes.
That’s when Bradley decided to make the changes. Donovan, who came off the bench for the second straight game, entered after half-time for Sacha Kljestan. Adu made his first national team appearance in two years when he came on in the 66th minute for Agudelo.
It only took 10 minutes before both midfielders made a big difference. The 22-year-old Adu, who was the most surprising selection for the team after being considered a bust by many, found a streaking Donovan down the right side of the field who carried the ball into the box before dishing it to Dempsey in front of the net.
Panama had all their opportunities in the second-half but failed to capitalise.