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Gold Cup Semifinals: US v. Panama

Jun 22, 2011, 6:55 PM EDT

US Soccer faces Panama in the semifinals of the Gold Cup. Coach Bob Bradley has decided to start the game with Landon Donovan on the bench
landon_bench.jpg

After a rocky start to the Gold Cup the US finds itself exactly where everyone assumed they’d be – in the semifinals of a tournament they were favored to win.

Tonight they face Panama, the team that handed the US its first Gold Cup group stage loss in the history of the twenty year old tournament (7PM/Fox Soccer/Galavision). The 2-1 loss to Panama seems to have been a wake-up call to the US, who have not conceded a goal since the first half of the Panama game.

Bob Bradley released his lineup for tonight and it looks like this:

Howard; Cherundolo, Goodson, Bocanegra, Lichaj; Bradley, Jones; Bedoya, Kljestan, Dempsey;Agudelo

You’ll notice that once again Landon Donovan, the all-time leading scorer in USMNT history, starts the game on the bench.

I suppose it’s a encouraging commentary on the state of the US program when they can start back to back knockout stage games with their best player on the bench. Granted, he sat against Jamaica because he did not return to D.C. until 7AM on Saturday (he flew to California and back in order to attend his sister’s wedding).

Tonight? Well, tonight it appears to simply be a tactical decision by Bob Bradley.

I kind of like the idea of bringing Donovan in off of the bench. He’ll bring fresh legs, an attacking mentality, and the wherewithal to help kill off a game in the event the US leads.

Make no mistake about it though – for a coach as conservative as Bradley not starting Donovan is a major story. Essentially he’s banking on Bedoya and Kljestan to repeat their outstanding performances from the Jamaica game.

Win this evening and the US advances to the Rose Bowl for Saturday’s Gold Cup Final against the winner of Mexico/Honduras.