Gold Cup: It's not USA-Mexico, but the Americans happy "to play the best team" in final

CHICAGO – Prices on the secondary ticket market for Sunday's Gold Cup final in Chicago have plummeted since the final whistle blew on Panama's semifinal win over Mexico, which left thousands of fans surprised and disappointed that they couldn't paint Soldier Field green on Sunday.

But the American players aren't shocked that they'll face Los Canaleros in Chicago (4 pm ET, Fox, UniMas, Univision Deportes). In a way, in fact, they’re glad. Because, in Panama, the Yanks are meeting the other deserved finalists.

“We're more motivated to play Panama because they beat Mexico,” Landon Donovan said. “Whoever was here, we were ready to play them. In my opinion, they've been the best team in the tournament besides us. We want to play the best team and to win a championship, and in my opinion, they are. …We're not too surprised they're here. Perhaps others are.”

With Mexico gone, the crowd at Soldier Field will most likely be more pro-American than previously expected.

But the US players know that the Panamanians, who brought most of their World Cup qualifying squad, have plenty of reasons to feel comfortable. And certainly motivation won’t be an issue, especially with the US dealing one of the many blows Panama suffered in June.

“We played them in Seattle a couple of weeks ago, and it took us a long time until Eddie Johnson's second goal to break them down,” USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “It's pretty much the same team. They kept them together, they kept the flow, they know where each other is running. …This is a very good team. It will be a nail-biter and we're ready for that.”

Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes said that his team qualified for the final “without making much noise.” But since the beginning of the tournament, the US have certainly had their ears to the ground.

They watched the other semifinal. They saw Panama and head coach Julio Dely Valdes live up to the precedent set by the first meeting between the teams. They saw Mexico leave Cowboys Stadium with their heads down.

And that’s all the Americans need to know with a trophy on the line Sunday on the shore of Lake Michigan.

“[Dely Valdes] has had a tremendous group over the last couple of years with that team, and he deserves a huge compliment,” Klinsmann said. “You beat Mexico twice in three weeks, you deserve a lot of respect.”