Landon Donovan became the first American men’s soccer player to reach the 50 goal mark in international play, later adding his 51st, in a 6-0 U.S. victory over Guatemala in San Diego’s Qualcomm Park last night.
The young, rebuilding Guatemala side failed to qualify for this year’s Gold Cup, while the U.S. used the match as preparation for that tournament, which opens on Sunday at the Rose Bowl when Canada take on Martinique, followed by a more enticing Mexico v Panama nightcap. The Americans first match is on Tuesday July 9th versus Belize, in Portland, Oregon.
While last night belonged to the returning Donovan, Chris Wondolowski and Alejandro Bedoya each scored their first international goal. Although 6-0 can only be classified as a rout, it took the Yanks some time to get untracked and Klinsmann could heard exhorting his team to pick up the pace, right up until Herculez Gomez opened the scoring in the 42nd minute.
The U.S. are taking the Gold Cup seriously, having selected a roster that features quite a bit of experience along with some younger talent. Indicative of that experience, the very first U.S. Soccer residency class is represented by four members. 1999ers Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu and Kyle Beckerman will be counted on by Klinsmann to lead this team deep into this tournament and with many teams, in particular Mexico, sending young squads, the home team will be expected to contend for the title.
Gomez missed out on the June World Cup Qualifiers with a balky knee, so getting the start and performing well, signalled that the new Tijuana signing is all the way back. Klinsmann’s lineup included five players from the Mexican Liga MX, the most ever for an American side. Three came from right across the U.S. border in Tijuana; Gomez, Edgar Castillo and Jose Torres.
Torres earned the assist on his new teammate Gomez’ opener, but the American attack showed far more cutting edge in the second half when Stuart Holden and Mikkel Diskerud replaced Torres and Kyle Beckerman in the midfield.
Other than the return of the prodigal son Donovan, Klinsmann’s lineup was perhaps the most interesting aspect of the night, as we try to project the U.S. lineup for the upcoming games. As expected Nick Rimando got the call in goal, with Michael Parkhurst and captain DaMarcus Beasley at fullback and Oguchi Onyewu and Clarence Goodson in the center.
With the Guatemalans rarely venturing forward, the U.S. defense were barely tested, although Goodson impressed with a goal. Parkhurst made a couple of timely interventions when Los Chapines did think to attack, Onyewu looked his old commanding self and Beasley got forward well. By playing the veteran midfielder at fullback, Klinsmann again showed that he is comfortable with Beasley in that position, indicating that he doesn’t see Run DMB as a fill in at the position.
Klinsmann has called on Torres to play with a bit more verve at times and despite his assist, last night’s performance may not have met that mandate. As a defensive midfielder, Beckerman met expectations and contributed some decent passing. Another interesting wrinkle from Klinsmann was playing Castillo in front of Beasley as a wide midfielder. Castillo plays primarily at fullback for Tijuana, but has never impressed in that role for the U.S. Klinsmann has kept faith with Castillo, so the diminutive winger could see significant time in the Gold Cup.
That brings us to Donovan, who started as a right midfielder, but moved up top in a swap with Joe Corona. The American attack immediately became more dangerous with Donovan joining Herculez Gomez as attackers, as the formation morphed from a 4-2-3-1 into a 4-4-2.
Klinsmann made just two switches after the intermission, but they changed the game and should have implications on the lineup going forward. As always, it can be folly to read too much into a friendly, but with that in mind, it was hard not to be encouraged by the Holden, Diskerud pairing. The Norwegian-American Diskerud has yet to be cap tied, but we can expect that oversight to be rectified as soon as Tuesday.
“Mix” is a nice prospect for the U.S., but the more exciting news for the U.S. midfield was Holden’s performance. After being out of action for so long, Holden has been working his way back to full fitness. Guatemala provided little in the way of a test for Holden, but the 2011 Bolton Player of the Year can be an important player for the U.S. if he can come all the way back.
But back to Donovan. Goal number 50 came on a penalty, which Donovan earned after getting the slightest of shoves from Carlos Castrillo. Donovan lost his pk duties with the Galaxy, but he was not giving this one up. Donovan read the keeper and hit the ball right down the middle for the goal. More impressive was LD’s second goal of the match, a well struck volley from a good Holden ball over the top, just one minute after Wondo’s 71st minute breakthrough.
The first two matches of the Gold Cup versus Belize (7/9 in Portland, Oregon) and Cuba (7/13 in Sandy, Utah) should present little trouble for the U.S. before a sterner test against Costa Rica in East Hartford, Connecticut on July 16th.
Qualification for the knockout stages should be little more than routine, with two teams from each group advancing, plus a couple of third place sides. Klinsmann’s lineup choices will provide plenty of interest and if all goes to plan, the Americans should be playing for the Gold Cup Championship, July 28th in Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 5 6
GUA 0 0 0
USA – Herculez Gomez (Jose Torres) 42nd minute
USA – Landon Donovan (penalty) 55
USA – Chris Wondolowski 71
USA – Landon Donovan (Stuart Holden) 72
USA – Clarence Goodson 84
USA – Alejandro Bedoya 88
USA: 1-Nick Rimando; 15-Michael Parkhurst, 5-Oguchi Onyewu, 21-Clarence Goodson, 7-DaMarcus Beasley (capt.); 14-Kyle Beckerman (8-Mix Diskerud, 46), 16-Jose Torres (11-Stuart Holden, 46); 10-Landon Donovan (17-Will Bruin, 73), 6-Joe Corona (20-Alejandro Bedoya, 59), 2-Edgar Castillo (23-Brek Shea, 59); 9-Herculez Gomez (19-Chris Wondolowski, 59)
Substitutions Not Used: 4-Michael Orozco Fiscal, 12-Sean Johnson, 18-Jack McInerney
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
GUA: 1-Ricardo Jerez; 2-Carlos Castrillo, 3-Enoc Vasquez, 13-Victor Hernandez (14-Luis Cardona, 59), 5-Carlos Gallardo (6-Milton Leal, 78); 24-Jonathan Lopez (17-Enrique Miranda, 76), 8-Sergio Trujillo (9-Wilber Perez, 59), 16-Jonathan Marquez, 22-Edward Santeliz; 18-Minor Lopez Campollo (19-Angelo Padilla 85), 10-Jose Contreras (capt.) (7-Marlon Sequen, 86)
Substitutions Not Used: 11-Kevin Arriola, 12-Victor Ayala
Head coach: Victor Monzón