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2015 Gold Cup - Day Twelve Review & Day Thirteen Preview

Waking the Red recaps all the action from the twelfth day of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup and looks ahead to Day Thirteen, the Third-Place Match

There are no words...
There are no words...
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Day Twelve, set against the backdrop of Atlanta, Georgia, was perhaps the most entertaining on offer thus far from the Gold Cup.

It had a little bit of everything: drama; suspense; action, and a tiny little bit of controversy as well – it wouldn't be CONCACAF without it.

The opening match saw hosts the USA take to the pitch against upstarts Jamaica, the lone remaining member of a trio of Caribbean sides who took the tournament by storm – Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti having been dumped out at the quarterfinal stage.

The US looked the more dangerous side through the early going. Aron Johannsson nearly capitalized on keeper Ryan Thompson doddling on the ball, stabbing his blocked-clearance into the outside netting and Fabian Johnson forced a diving save from the Jamaican net-minder, who pushed the curling effort wide.

But it was The Reggae Boyz who would stun the crowd in the 30th minute when a long throw-in from Kemar Lawrence on the left was flung into the area towards Darren Mattocks at the high near-post. Mattocks beat John Anthony Brooks to the delivery, his back-header looping over the out-stretched arms of Brad Guzan to nestle inside the far-post to give Jamaica the lead. It was a stunner.

And five minutes later another MLS-er, Giles Barnes, would slip in the dagger when his rasping free-kick from the right corner of the area was whipped over the wall and into the top right-corner, again past a helpless Guzan.

Clint Dempsey, the tournament's leading scorer with six goals, tried to pull one back before half-time, but Thompson was alert with a sliding save and a tenacious big of leg-work to hold the rebound.

Michael Bradley would pull one back shortly after half-time, arriving late in the area in the 47th minute to left-foot in the spilled rebound from a Johannsson shot. Dempsey played a necessary role in keeping the chance alive, his early pressure preventing Thompson from covering the rebound before Bradley arrived.

Ball in hand, charging back to the centre-circle, Bradley urged on his Stars and Stripes teammates, and try they would.

The best look fell to Johannsson, arriving at the edge of the six to get his head on a rebound from a blocked Johnson shot, only to wastefully steer the chance over.

Bradley himself nearly got the job done, his knuckling right-footer troubled the Jamaican keeper, who was fortunate to see an uncertain touch redirect the drive off the post and away from danger.

With the 1-2 win, Jamaica reaches the final of the Gold Cup for the first time in the competitions history – their previous best had been the quarterfinals on three occasions (leaving aside third and fourth placed finishes in 1993 and 1998, respectively, before the tournament took on it's modern format).

The US, however, must settle for the Third-Place Playoff, meeting the loser of the evening's second game.

Not only must they accept that disappointment, but they have put their participation in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in jeopardy. Had the US won the Gold Cup, they would have avoided a one-off playoff against this edition's champion.

The hosts falling to the unheralded Jamaicans may have been a shock, but what followed in the later match was pure madness, as Mexico once more required debatable penalty decisions in added time to move on to the next round of the competition, winning 1-2 over the beleaguered Panamanians.

The frustration began in the 24th when Luis Tejada was sent off for catching Francisco Rodriguez in the face with a stray arm as he tried to go up for an aerial ball. Yes, the hand made contact with the head, but it looked more like a graze, a loving caress, than the assault Rodriguez made it out to be. Nevertheless, a red card was produced and Los Canaleros were reduced to ten men.

Despite that, Panama would find several chances, Valentin Pimentel placing a header inches over the bar the best of the lot.

Mexico would have a look of their own when Carlos Vela sent a free-kick whistling over the crossbar, but it was Panama who took the lead in the 56th minute when Roman Torres out-muscled Rodriguez to get on the end of a right-sided in-swinging corner kick at the back-post, guiding his header down and past Guillermo Ochoa.

Stunned, El Tri nearly went behind by two as the US had, but Ochoa stayed big to make a vital save on Armando Cooper.

With the clocking ticking down, Panama having navigated some 76-plus minutes short-handed, the softest of penalty decisions would prove their doom. Panamanian defender Torres held off the run of Carlos Esquivel, throwing himself on top of the loose ball inside the box. For some reason, the referee seemed to think this was penalty worthy in a stunning decision, gifting Mexico a route back into the match with just seconds remaining.

Andres Guardado stepped to the spot, calmly beating Jaime Penedo to his left; the Panamanian keeper read the direction, but could not reach the well-placed kick.

Fifteen minutes later, at the end of the first half of extra time, Mexico again would be the beneficiaries of a soft call, though this time it looked more like a proper penalty – whether it warranted being called in extra time is a matter for debate.

Harold Cummings bundled over Javier Orozco in the area and Guardado again coolly rolled his left-footer past Penedo, going to the keeper's right this time, sending Penedo in the other direction.

Panama were displeased and the match ended in farce. Post-match, they protested in their dressing room with a banner that read, "CONCACAF, thieves, corrupted". It is hard to argue with that after what has happened the last two rounds.

Just two matches remain in this year's rendition of the Gold Cup; what sort of malarky they hold remains to be seen.

The Third-Place Playoff match goes on Saturday in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 4 pm ET when the USA meets Panama, assuming they aren't all suspended.

The Final is set for Sunday at a snazzier locale in Philly at 7:30 pm where Jamaica and Mexico face-off to determine the champion – how will Mexico win that one?