Matching 3-0 wins in the last round of games in Group B sent the USA and Panama through to the quarterfinals. Both teams can thank players with connections to the New York Red Bulls for their most recent success. Michael Amir Murillo - currently attached to RBNY - scored Panama's first goal. Matt Miazga - a product of the Red Bulls Academy and key to the team lifting the 2015 Supporters' Shield in MLS - bagged the USA's last goal of the group stage.
If they can each win their respective quarterfinals, Panama and the USA will see each other again in the semifinals. For now, however, they celebrate clearing the first hurdle at the 2017 Gold Cup.
Martinique 0-3 Panama
Panama clinched its spot in the quarterfinals with a 3-0 win that also made it the only team in Group B to shut out Martinique.
Les Matinino had enjoyed a decent couple of games prior to running into Los Canaleros, beating NIcaragua and running the USA close. But Panama found a goal in the 44th minute through New York Red Bulls' Amir Murillo, and a couple more after half-time - thanks to Abdiel Arroyo and Gabriel Torres.
The win briefly gave Panama hope of avoiding a quarterfinal against Costa Rica by winning Group B - but the USA found the necessary margin of victory to claim top spot in the group on tie-breakers.
Still, Panama can look back at a successful group stage. It played the USA to a 1-1 tie and won the games it was expected to win against Nicaragua and Martinique. It is heading to the knockout rounds as expected.
For Martinique, the scale of the loss to Panama is disappointing and makes it a long-shot to make the quarterfinals.
If there is a team in Gold Cup that has a right to feel aggrieved by the brouhaha in Group A that led to Honduras being awarded a 3-0 win over French Guiana (when the result on the field was 0-0), it is Martinique. But for the points and goals Honduras was handed by CONCACAF, Martinique would be celebrating a trip to the knockout rounds. As things stand, Les Matinino look likely to be the lowest-ranked of the the third-placed teams in the group stage - and therefore the only one of those teams eliminated.
Honduras has four points, Martinique has only three - so Los Catrachos are already better-ranked than Martinique and therefore through to the next round. Les Matinino must hope that Jamaica beats El Salvador by two or more goals (and El Salvador doesn't score a few along the way), or it is out of the tournament.
Nicaragua 0-3 USA
The USA kicked off this match knowing it needed to win by three goals to pip Panama to top spot in the group. Nicaragua is a team that loses often, but doesn't often lose by a lot - so a three-goal win was by no means a formality for USMNT.
Joe Corona got the scoring started for the home team in the 36th minute, but there were no more goals in the first half. After the break, it seemed as though perhaps the referee had decided to help the USA towards its three-goal target. Dom Dwyer won a soft penalty...
It was a soft penalty given in the first place, as Dwyer went down very easily under a slight touch from López. #USMNT #NCA #USAvNCA pic.twitter.com/o9nZ0EhR04— Jason Foster (@JogaBonitoUSA) July 16, 2017
...but Nicaragua 'keeper Justo Lorente saved the spot kick.
Great chance for #USMNT to extend lead to 2-0....and Dwyer takes a very poor penalty and has it saved easily by Lorente. Yikes. #USAvNCA pic.twitter.com/au1H6lwOkN— Jason Foster (@JogaBonitoUSA) July 16, 2017
Kelyn Rowe bagged the USA's second in the 56th minute, and there was still plenty of time for a third goal. But Lorente kept out the USA's second penalty opportunity of the night.
This penalty was given for a handball when a #NCA defender slid in, after Bedoya had a great run from midfield to the box. #USMNT #USAvNCA pic.twitter.com/xW5Je50Reu— Jason Foster (@JogaBonitoUSA) July 16, 2017
This time Corona takes the penalty, again it's very poorly taken and Lorente easily saves it. So wasteful by #USMNT. Unacceptable. #USAvNCA pic.twitter.com/y2Cbc8vu3P— Jason Foster (@JogaBonitoUSA) July 16, 2017
And it seemed increasingly possible that Nicaragua would deny the USA the big win it needed and the referee kept trying to make happen. But a late red card reduced the Central American side to 10 men, and Matt Miazga made the advantage count by connecting with Graham Zusi's free kick for the goal that sent the USA to the top of Group B.
GET IN @MattMiazga3!!! #USMNT finally gets the crucial 3rd goal as Miazga scores his 1st #USA goal on a diving header from Zusi's free kick. pic.twitter.com/QzBPVPhjus— Jason Foster (@JogaBonitoUSA) July 16, 2017
Nicaragua exits the tournament. The USA moves on to a quarterfinal against Honduras or the third-placed team in Group C.