When the United States men's national team began their summer campaign on May 29 against Belgium, no one would have expected what the final outcome of the two-month cross-country adventure would be.
No one expected Jozy Altidore to begin the summer on a scoring tear in World Cup qualifiers.
No one expected Chris Wondolowski to break his agonizing goal-scoring slump against Guatemala and Belize.
No one even expected Brek Shea, who spent most of the last year on the bench at Stoke City because of injuries, to be the player who scored the winning goal at the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Amongst all of the pleasant, unexpected developments surrounding the Yanks this summer, the one expected result of the summer became a reality on Sunday, as the United States powered past Panama, 1-0, in the Gold Cup final Sunday afternoon at Chicago's Soldier Field.
After a first half that could only be perfectly described by the image of Stuart Holden's head in his arms on the bench after suffering a knee injury, the Americans found a way past the Panamanian defense to lift their first Gold Cup since 2007.
When the Americans emerged from the tunnel to begin the second half, a sense of belief found its way into the side, just like it had for the entire summer. With the Yanks doing their best Spain impression in the possession category, they began to challenge the imposing back four led by Roman Torres.
As the Americans kept challenging the Panamanian defense, the duo of Martin Vazquez and Andy Herzog, who coached from the touchline in place of the suspended Jurgen Klinsmann, muddled what changes to make to the American side that needed just one more extra boost of energy to push them over the wall.
That boost of energy came in the form of Shea, who within 42 seconds of entering the match was celebrating the goal that would eventually win the 2013 Gold Cup trophy.
Shea easily tapped in a cross that was sent in by Alejandro Bedoya, which was initially whiffed on by Landon Donovan.
As the final few minutes of the match approached and the American Outlaws began to cheer even louder, Panama pushed forward, but they failed to beat Nick Rimando, who was a rock in the American goal for most of the tournament.
The win capped off a summer run that was catapulted by a win over Germany in a friendly on June 2 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C, a win that no one saw coming as well.
In between now and then, the Yanks announced to the rest of CONCACAF that they had finally arrived during the Klinsmann era.
The domination of their continental rivals began five days after the win over Germany in Jamaica in a match where another unexpected hero, Brad Evans, scored the winning goal in stoppage time.
From there the Yanks carried the momentum into two home victories over Panama and Honduras and although few players carried over from the qualifying roster to the Gold Cup roster, the attitude surrounding the program was infectious.
With a new roster chock full of players hungry to put their names into consideration for the World Cup squad, the Yanks cruised through the Gold Cup by going undefeated.
The wins were a statement to the whole of CONCACAF, Klinsmann and the world that this American side is like no squad anyone has seen in the past.
With a new-found depth that stretches over every position and a new-found confidence that continues to grow by the second, the possibilities are now endless for the Yanks.
Now comes the task of continuing the program record 11-match win streak into the treacherous fall with trips to Panama and Costa Rica ahead in the Hex, which only has four matches remaining and restarts in September.
Now that the celebrations in Chicago have ended, it is time to focus once again on the long-term goal that is now less than a year away, and with the added momentum from this summer, impressing on the world's biggest stage in Brazil is now an absolute must.
Follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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