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Donovan-to-Dempsey puts U.S. in finals

Clint Dempsey, center, was swarmed by teammates after scoring a sliding goal off a Landon Donovan pass in the 77th minute. It was the sixth goal for the U.S. in this Gold Cup.
Clint Dempsey, center, was swarmed by teammates after scoring a sliding goal off a Landon Donovan pass in the 77th minute. It was the sixth goal for the U.S. in this Gold Cup. AP

HOUSTON — Clint Dempsey scored in the 77th minute off an assist from Landon Donovan, and the United States advanced to the Gold Cup finals with a 1-0 victory over Panama on Wednesday night.

The Americans will play in the biennial tournament's championship game for the fourth straight time after avenging a 2-1 loss to Panama on June 11.

Freddy Adu made a long-awaited return to American soccer in the second half and set up the winning play with a cross-field pass to Donovan, who played in his 27th consecutive Gold Cup match to extend his own record.

Donovan then threaded a pinpoint pass through the Panama defense to Dempsey, who slid as he redirected the ball into the low corner of the net.

The U.S. will play the winner of the later Honduras-Mexico semifinal for the championship at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

The United States defeated Panama in the knockout stage of the tournament for the fourth straight time. The Americans had never lost in the group stage of the tournament, or to Panama in international play until the shocking defeat earlier this month.

Both teams were missing top players in the rematch.

Panama forward Blas Perez earned a red card in his team's quarterfinal win over El Salvador, and U.S. forward Jozy Altidore was ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a strained hamstring.

Altidore has scored two of the Americans' six goals in the event. He was hurt in the ninth minute of the 2-0 victory against Jamaica on Sunday.

Tickets sold out for the semifinals doubleheader, but the stadium was only about half-full at the start of the first game.

The Americans generated the first scoring chance in the 17th minute, when Alejandro Bedoya hooked a high cross into the goal area. Dempsey redirected a header toward the goal, but Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo corraled it before Juan Agudelo could finish.

Agudelo hit the post with a diving header off a cross from Steve Cherundolo in the 25th minute.

Adu, the one-time teen phenom who turned 22 last month, drew cheers when he trotted onto the field in the 66th minute. Adu was playing in Turkey when he got the call to rejoin the Americans' roster for the Gold Cup.

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