Donovan's three goals spark U.S. past Scotland 5-1 in friendly.
By Robert Wagman
(Sunday, May 27, 2012) -- In the first of three friendly matches leading up to the first two World Cup 2014 qualifiers, the United States men overwhelmed Scotland 5-1 behind three goals by Landon Donovan last night at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., before 44,438 on a warm night with the temperature on the field in the 90s.
It was the largest crowd to attend a U.S. men's match in Florida.
For quite some time, fans have been waiting to see U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann's much-advertised up-tempo, short-passing, always-moving-forward offense, the style wants the Americans to play. So far, what the U.S. has shown under the German coach has been a defense-first, counter-attacking style very much like that of his American predecessor Bob Bradley.
Tonight, however, against a hapless Scottish team that looked slow and overmatched from the opening whistle, one saw the kind of play Klinsmann has wanted from the beginning. It involved clogging the midfield with players always moving and trading positions. There were three players in the middle -- Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan -- in kind of a triangle, always in motion. They were supported by Maurice Edu and José Torres in more defensive roles, while 21-year-old Terrence Boyd played striker.
The U.S. so controlled the midfield that there was very little pressure on the defense. Scotland had no shots on goal over the full 90 minutes and its one tally coming on an early own goal miscommunication playing a major role. Other than that, it was as close as a perfect match for the Americans against what should have been a quality opponent.
Donovan recorded his third career international hat trick which was very much earned. Bradley scored one goal on a long distance rocket and Jones added a beautifully-headed goal. Donovan, whose play in Major League Soccer has been somewhat lackadaisical recently, rose to the occasion and, along with the rest of the U.S. midfield, worked tirelessly. He was obviously the top Americans, but Bradley and Jones weren't far behind him.
"We are very pleased with the performance tonight," Klinsmann said. "I think tonight you saw many elements of what we're always talking about, what we're trying step by step to develop. It's a fast-paced game, it has tempo in it. It has one-two touch combinations through our midfielders as fast as possible finding the forwards up there, having pace, build up from the back, no long balls. All those elements I think we saw a lot today. I think we set the tone and the team kept (its) rhythm throughout the entire game. We kept the tempo going, the energy was high. We saw wonderful goals. For a coach, that's obviously fun to watch, no doubt about it."
Tonight, Klinsmann was without regular midfielder Clint Dempsey, who has a groin injury, and striker Jozy Altidore, who is not yet in camp. One might have to wonder how he will get them into this lineup for Wednesday's clash with Brazil in Landover, Md.
Dempsey might replace Boyd and likely Altidore will not have been in camp long enough to earn a starter's role. But obviously against the swift Brazilians, even with the younger team they are bringing, the U.S. will have to play more defensively, and both Jones and Bradley are capable of that.
Scotland came into the match having not qualified for Euro 2012 and with its first World Cup qualifier coming against Serbia in September. So, Scottish coach Craig Levein used this match for some experimenting. He gave first time caps to several players, while playing without a number of his best players, including Manchester United's ill Darren Fletcher and Charlie Adam, and English Premier League players James Morrison, Alan Hutton, Jamie Mackie and Graeme Dorrans, Glasgow Rangers' Steven Naismith and Glasgow Celtic's emerging star James Forrest. Three other long time Scottish internationals: Chris Burke, James McFadden and Kris Boyd were not called in.
Levein obviously needs to go back to the drawing board.
Next up for the U.S. is Brazil and the question whether the Americans can maintain this style of play and this tempo against a more quality opponent.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 6: About the only time he touched the ball was to pull it back out of the goal after the own goal. He controlled his box well.
Defender Fabian Johnson - 6.5: Not asked to do much defensively, but was solid there and got forward, but perhaps not enough given the porous Scottish midfield trouble.
Defender Geoff Cameron - 4: Some own goals are accidental, others like Cameron's are hard-earned. He was out of position to start, playing Scotland's Kenny Miller on-side, was slow to react when Miller charged toward goal, then essentially charged his own goal with no destination in mind and didn't react when Miller's cross was heading towards his chest. He showed he has a long way to go before replacing any of the veterans on the U.S. back-line.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 7: Scotland thought it would play physically to intimidate the U.S. Bocanegra played physically back, earning a yellow card for laying one Scottish player out. Scotland then played less physically. A strong match from the U.S. captain.
Defender Steve Cherundolo - 6.5: Did nothing wrong and was there when needed, but seemed at times to be saving his energy for Brazil, when he will need to have a high quality game.
Midfielder Maurice Edu - 7: He was called on to back up the U.S. midfield and delivered a nice performance. Made a number of key defensive stops and was always there when Scotland tried to move forward.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 8: He continues to have terrific matches. He scored a highlight-reel goal, his passing was superb, made defensive stops when needed and had a great all-around match.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 8: He has always been considered a hard-nosed defensive midfielder. Tonight was something of a revelation as he was a major offensive force in the midfield, scoring once himself, getting two assists and generally being involved on many forward thrusts. His best game for the U.S.
Midfielder José Torres - 7: He worked very well with Bradley, involving himself at times with the offense and was always there when Scotland tried to counter. He showed tonight he can play at this level.
Forward Landon Donovan - 8.5: In a career of many great games for the U.S., this was almost a statement game for Donovan. He continues to be the player that moves the team. When he is on, one gets a performance like tonight. When he disappears, as he sometimes does, there are mixed results. Three goals and an assist is a great game, certainly one of his best.
Forward Terrence Boyd - 6: He worked hard, but only on occasion did he put himself into a good position and then, when he did get the ball, he could not convert. He did not do badly and considering his youth, he has a long future ahead of him.
The match was essentially over before any of these substitutions were made. None of the subs made any glaring errors. Oguchi Onyewu made a couple of plays as did Joe Corona but, otherwise, none was called on to do very much. So no ratings are given tonight for any of the reserves.
Defender Oguchi Onyewu (63rd minute for Bocanegra).
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman (64th minute for Edu)
Forward Herculez Gomez (64th minute for Boyd)
Midfielder Joe Corona (68th minute for Torres)
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan (71st minute for Howard)
Defender Edgar Castillo (73rd minute for Johnson)
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Landon Donovan
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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