CHICAGO — Brek Shea sure knows how to make an entrance.
Just 42 seconds after entering as a substitute Sunday, Shea pounced after Landon Donovan whiffed on a shot and poked the ball into the net for the United States in the 69th minute, the only goal the Americans needed to beat Panama 1-0 for the CONCACAF Gold Cup title.
It is the fifth championship for the Americans, but first since 2007. It also is the first international title as a coach for Jurgen Klinsmann, who won the 1990 World Cup and 1996 European title with Germany as a player.
"It doesn't matter who scored today," Shea said. "We won."
The United States is doing a lot of that lately. This was the 11th straight victory for the Americans, extending the team record.
Klinsmann, who watched the game from a luxury box after being suspended for his tirade over the officiating in the semifinal, quickly made his way down to the field, pumping his fists in the air as he walked to join the celebration.
"They wanted to send out a signal that they are the best group in CONCACAF, and they are," Klinsmann said. "For today."
The Americans outscored their opponents 20-4 in the tournament, which includes teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean. They also showed the roster is deeper than ever, with one young player after another stepping up.
And one veteran, too.
Donovan was selected the tournament MVP. He finished with five goals and seven assists, a particularly impressive performance following his winter sabbatical, after which Klinsmann declined to used Donovan for World Cup qualifiers in the spring and summer.
"In terms of just having fun, it's up there," Donovan said. "I'm just enjoying being part of it, I really am."
Though Klinsmann picks his roster based on form, not reputation, he acknowledged it would be almost impossible to leave Donovan off the roster when qualifying resumes in the fall.
"He deserves every compliment for this tournament," Klinsmann said.
One bit of discouraging news for the Americans was the loss of Stuart Holden with another right knee injury. Holden sprained his knee early in the first half, and while he will have further tests, Klinsmann said it appears to be another "very serious" injury. Holden has missed much of the past two seasons with multiple injuries, mostly to the same leg.
Most expected a final involving the USA against its archrival, fellow CONCACAF power Mexico. But Panama had other ideas, upsetting El Tri twice on the strength of its stingy defense.
The Americans slowly broke Panama down and finished with three shots on goal. Panama had six shots but none on goal.