CHICAGO — Brek Shea sure knows how to make an entrance.
Just 42 seconds after coming into the game as a substitute Sunday, Shea pounced after Landon Donovan whiffed a shot and poked the ball into the net. His goal in the 69th minute gave the United States a 1-0 victory over Panama and the CONCACAF Gold Cup title. It was the fifth Gold Cup title for the Americans, their first since 2007. It was also the first international title as a coach for Jurgen Klinsmann, who won the 1990 World Cup and 1996 European Championship with Germany.
‘‘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, four more than their previous record, and they likely will leapfrog Mexico as the best team from the North and Central America and Caribbean region when the next FIFA rankings come out Aug. 8.
When the final whistle sounded, the Americans on the field began celebrating while the rest of the team raced off the bench. Several players jumped up and down, and hugs and high-fives were exchanged. 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.
‘‘They wanted to send out a signal that they are the best group in CONCACAF, and they are,’’ Klinsmann said. ‘‘For today.’’
But their performance in this tournament is likely to stay with the Americans for a while. At least until the next round of World Cup qualifying in September. Not only did they outscore opponents in the tournament, 20-4 — no other team had more than 11 goals — but they showed they are deeper than they've ever been, with one young player after another stepping up.
And one veteran, too.
Despite his big whiff, Donovan was selected the tournament MVP. He finished with five goals and seven assists, a particularly impressive performance considering it followed a four-month sabbatical over the winter that cost him his place on the national team.
The only disappointment 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 tests, Klinsmann said after the game that ‘‘it’s not looking good.’’
While most expected a Mexico-US final, Panama had other ideas, upsetting El Tri twice on the strength of its stingy defense. Panama was just as dogged against the Americans early, but rather than taking wild shots or trying to force things, the Americans stayed patient.
Shea replaced Joe Corona in the 68th minute, just as the Americans were pressing forward again. Alejandro Bedoya got the ball on his left foot and crossed to Donovan, who took a mighty swing — and missed. But it was enough to throw goalkeeper Jaime Pendeo off, and when the ball rolled past Panama’s Roberto Chen and on toward the net, Shea was ready. Parked inches from the goal line, Shea stuck out his left foot and tapped the ball into the net for his second international goal.