Donovan was however both the driving force and the creative director behind the goal on Sunday as he has been for most of what his team has accomplished in the past few weeks.
In a scoreless game marked by sluggish play and a slow pace the United States broke through against Panama in the 69th minute when Alejandro Bedoya sent a centering pass toward the goal mouth. Donovan ran past the ball inadvertently pulling a dummy maneuver that froze goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and set up Brek Shea for a tap in goal.
I took a mighty swing at it and missed Donovan said.
The 1 0 victory secured the fifth Gold Cup title for the United States in front of an announced crowd of 57 920 at Soldier Field.
Just as this tournament marked Donovan s return it was an arrival of sorts for his coach Jurgen Klinsmann. The win was a record 11th in a row for the United States and earned Klinsmann his first trophy since he took over for Bob Bradley two summers ago a month after the United States lost to Mexico in the last Gold Cup final.
Klinsmann was not on the bench Sunday he was forced to watch from a suite after he was suspended for his ejection from Wednesday s semifinal win over Honduras. But he joined his players on the field after the game.
Watching the game was horrible he said. They gave me a nice Champagne shower.
Klinsmann added It s always nice to win a trophy. But we want to win in a way that you deserve it and this was the best team in the Gold Cup.
The United States had advanced to the final on the strength of a dynamic offense and an aggressive brand of soccer pushed by Klinsmann scoring a team record 19 goals in the tournament.
That pace and much of the flair was missing for most of Sunday s game. Perhaps it was Klinsmann s absence the inherent nerves that accompany a final or the opponent Panama and not archrival Mexico. There were many Mexico jerseys in the stands belonging to fans surely disappointed that their team had failed to advance.
The final was flat from the start and devoid of quality scoring chances until a DaMarcus Beasley cross in the 56th minute was headed wide by Donovan. Shea replaced Joe Corona in the 68th minute and scored less than a minute later. Panama had mounted little offense before Shea s strike it did not register a shot and that did not change after it.
What this victory means is debatable. As Klinsmann has said Concacaf is not the World Cup. It does ensure that the United States will play the winner of the 2015 Gold Cup for a place in the 2017 Confederations Cup. But only a few players from this squad are likely to be in Brazil for the World Cup next summer.
Donovan s status had been uncertain since he took a leave of absence from his club and the national team last year. After he was awarded the Golden Ball as the most valuable player of the tournament for his five goals and seven assists it was almost unthinkable that he would not be selected for next year s World Cup.
He earned every compliment he got this tournament Klinsmann said. Of Donovan s status for September s World Cup qualifiers he said There is a high probability he joins us.
Panama made its first appearance in a Gold Cup final since 2005 when the story lines were remarkably similar to Sunday s. Then the United States was without its coach Bruce Arena who was suspended after he was ejected from a semifinal win.
On that day the United States needed penalty kicks to defeat Panama at Giants Stadium. Ninety minutes were enough Sunday as the United States claimed its first Gold Cup since 2007. The Americans had lost the previous two finals to Mexico.
There was one negative Sunday. Stuart Holden who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in 2011 and then reinjured it when he tried to return later that year left in the 23rd minute after banging knees with Alberto Quintero. Klinsmann said Holden might have another serious injury.
Otherwise the Americans were looking forward.
This is not the end Donovan said. It s the end of the tournament but hopefully this is just the beginning for a lot of us.