TAMPA, Fla. (Sunday, March 25, 2007) -- Landon Donovan put on a show, scoring three times in lifting the United States to a 3-1 triumph over Ecuador in a friendly before 31,547 at Raymond James Stadium this afternoon.
Donovan accomplished his second career hat trick by scoring in three distinctly different manners. His first strike came in the first minute. After that lead soon dissipated, he gave the Americans the victory with a pair of goals in a one-minute span midway through the second half.
"I thought it was an exciting game, highlighted of course by a great performance by Landon," U.S. interim coach Bob Bradley said. "Throughout this (training) camp, you could tell that he had really stepped things up in terms of his role on the team. He was our captain today. More than that, he really came through with the goals and good movement off the ball, which is something that he does really well."
Donovan put the U.S. ahead 1-0 after 41 seconds, exploiting a weak Ecuadorian clearance and depositing a left-footer into the net from 18 yards out. On a lazy ball lofted into the Ecuador penalty area, defender Ivan Hurtado nodded it softly just above the right corner of the 18-yard-line. Donovan touched it forward a couple of yards and laced a bending shot past goalkeeper Rorys Aragon and into the right center of the net for a 1-0 lead.
"It's funny. As the ball was traveling (into the box), you kind of get the feeling that it might drop down to me," Donovan said. "When I saw the defender head it, it came to me and I was just focusing on getting a good first touch. My first touch was pretty good. I've also been working a lot this year on shooting from outside. It wasn't a perfect shot, but I don't think the goalie saw it and it caught him a little off guard. It helped us a lot."
Ecuador needed 10 minutes to equalize at 1-1. Two minutes after squandering a deep free kick just beyond the left perimeter of the penalty area, defender Neicer Reasco touched the ball from the left sideline to forward Felipe Caicedo at the top left corner of the box.
A step inside of U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu, Caicedo cut diagonally left toward goal. Twelve yards from the center of the net, Caicedo was undeterred by U.S. midfielder Benny Feilhaber's challenge from behind and then, stumbling, chipped the ball into the right corner of the net before sliding keeper Tim Howard or defender Steve Cherundolo arrived.
When midfielder Michael Bradley replaced forward Eddie Johnson after intermission, Donovan moved from midfield to join Brian Ching on the front line and the pair combined for the go-ahead goal. Ching took a long ball from deep in the defensive end at the right side of the midfield stripe and quickly touched to Donovan to begin a 50-yard sprint with the ball into the right side of the penalty area, As he carried into the box, Donovan used a quick stutter step, causing Aragon to drop to one knee as the American shot into the left side of the net from 12 yards out to make it 2-1.
"I love playing with Chingy," Donovan said. "The second half was better. I was a little closer to him. The first half, I couldn't really get around him. He sees the game the right way. He does little things that people don't always see. On (assisting Donovan's) second goal, there's a lot of good, talented players (who) can't play that ball. You think of Chingy as a big man that doesn't know how to play and create space like that. What a great ball."
Sixty-nine seconds later, Donovan completed his second hat trick -- the 10th ever by a U.S. player -- adding to his four-goal effort in a 5-0 rout of Cuba in Foxborough, Mass., on July 19, 2003. The last American to have three goals in a match was Taylor Twellman, who entered this afternoon's game as a reserve in the second half, and struck three times when the U.S. dropped Norway 5-1 January 29, 2006, in Carson, Calif.
Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley carried the ball down the left flank nearly to the end-line, retreated along the perimeter of the box and laid the ball into the path on the advancing Donovan. The two-time World Cup veteran blasted the ball from the top of the penalty arc 23 yards into the top right side of the net and the U.S. lead. 3-1.
Before the quick two tallies, the U.S. had numerous chances to regain the lead. In the 14th minute, Feilhaber, making his first international appearance, drew a foul 35 yards out. The ensuing free kick was intended for Onyewu, charging to the far post, but Aragon knocked it away with one hand.
A minute later, Feilhaber sent a corner kick to an unmarked Johnson. As the Ecuador back-line appealed for offside call, Johnson spun and fired just high from 12 yards out.
Ecuador also had opportunities to go ahead. In the 21st minute, forward Carlos Tenorio slipped behind the U.S. defense for an open run on goal, but Howard got down to smother the ball at the six-yard-line.
In the 28th minute, U.S. defender Jimmy Conrad used a slide tackle to stop Caicedo a the top right corner of the six-yard box. On the ensuing corner kick, Feilhaber made his first cap memorable by nodding away off his goal-line Ulises de la Cruz's header toward the near post.
"Ecuador, as we know from last summer, is a very talented team," Bradley said. "I thought that there was a period in the first half that we didn't handle that well."
At the end of the first half, Ching was well-positioned to put the U.S. ahead, but he took a boot to the face, leaving him to make only a weak header and bleeding from the nose on the sidelines for several minutes.
Ecuador didn't quit, with defender Giovanny Espinoza sending a glancing header over the crossbar from 12 yards in the 87th minute and requiring Howard to make a quick reaction save of a free kick in stoppage time.
Notes: Following the match, Bradley released four players -- defender Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham), Howard (Everton) and Onyewu (Newcastle United) to their teams in England, while midfielder Brian Carroll will join Major League Soccer's D.C. United in Guadalajara, Mexico for the second leg of a CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinal series against Chivas.
The Americans leave Monday for Frisco, Texas, to prepare for Wednesday's showdown against Guatemala at Pizza Hut Park, a 9 p.m. (ET) match to be broadcast by ESPN2 and Spanish-language Galavision
On June 2, the U.S. faces China in San Jose, Calif., before participating in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa America this summer.
United States 3, Ecuador 1
Lineups: United States - Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo (Jonathan Spector 80), Jimmy Conrad, Oguchi Onyewu, Clint Dempsey (Brian Mullan 80), Benny Feilhaber, DaMarcus Beasley (Justin Mapp 83), Landon Donovan - captain (Brian Carroll 91+), Eddie Johnson (Michael Bradley 46), Brian Ching (Taylor Twellman 73); Ecuador - Rorys Aragon, Ivan Hurtado (Jorge Guagua 78), Ulised de la Cruz, Giovanny Espinoza, Neicer Reasco (Oscar Bagui 91+), Edison Mendez, Segundo Castillo, Luis Valencia, Luis Caicedo (Luis Saritama 64), Felipe Caicedo (Edmundo Zura 72), Carlos Tenorio (Felix Borja 78).
United States - Donovan 1.
Ecuador - Caicedo (Reasco) 11.
United States - Donovan (Ching) 66.
United States - Donovan (Beasley) 67.
Shots: United States 10, Ecuador 8.
Saves: United States 3, Ecuador 3.
Corner kicks: United States 4, Ecuador 3.
Fouls: United States 15, Ecuador 14.
Offside: United States 1, Ecuador 2.
Yellow card cautions: United States - Feilhaber 22; Ecuador - Espinoza 16, de la Cruz 18.
Referee: Silviu Petrescu (Canada).
Assistant referees: Hector Vergara (Canada), Amado DeLuca (Canada).
Fourth official: Arkadiusz Prus (United States).
Attendance: 31,547 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
Weather: Clear, sunny, 82 degrees.
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