Donovan shines, leading U.S. past El Salvador into Gold Cup semifinals.
By Robert Wagman
BALTIMORE (Sunday, July 21, 2013) -- In front of a sea of Salvadoran blue, the United States rode a goal and three assists from midfielder Landon Donovan, the United States men romped to a 5-1 victory tonight over badly outmatched El Salvador before a sellout of over 71,000 at the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals at M&T Bank Stadium.
The U.S., extending its record win streak to nine matches, advanced to the semifinals and will meet Honduras Wednesday in Dallas at 7 p.m., in the semifinals. The match will be broadcast by Fox Sports Channel and Spanish-language Univision.
Honduras edged Costa Rica 1-0 in tonight’s second quarterfinal.
Actually, the U.S. made things a bit harder on itself than necessary. Coasting with a 2-0 lead in the first half, the Americans had several opportunities to expand their advantage. Instead, after giving up an unnecessary penalty kick and seeing their lead reduced to one, the U.S. went into halftime with only a 2-1 lead.
Salvadoran striker Rodolfo Zelaya was a handful for the U.S. all night. On several occasions, he moved laterally into the American penalty area, causing the defense all kinds of problems. On one, he eluded three defenders before defender Matt Besler shouldered him to the ground, leading to the penalty.
El Salvador started the second half with a much more offensive mindset, pushing forward, leading to several chances in the first five minutes. The efforts came to nothing. The U.S. then took back control and after reserve striker Eddie Johnson scored just seconds after entering, the Americans played wide open soccer, adding two more tallies.
“We missed a moment in the first half to kill off (the game),” U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann said. “We had to hang on a bit longer, but with Eddie Johnson’s goal, the game was pretty much over. This team is getting better and better, and the second half was very enjoyable.”
Donovan admitted El Salvador gave the Americans a bit of a scare after intermission. “They started the second half well and we were a little lackadaisical,” Donovan said. “Sometimes with the lead, you have that tendency. We should have had five goals in the first half. The next thing you know, they are getting chances which I think woke us up. Going forward, though, we can’t have those spells because a better team will make you pay.”
This was the Americans best game of the tournament. They hit a few bumps in the road such as in the 26th minute when goalkeeper Nick Rimando made a point blank kick save on a blast from Mark Blanco, then laid full out to push the rebound shot past his left post.
Donovan was everywhere, making wonderful passes to create chances, working combination plays with several others and scoring once himself -- and coming close at least three other times.
Donovan now has 54 goals and 55 assists for his career, both U.S. bests. Donovan now has five goals and seven assists in five matches since his return to the national team.
“When we had our good moments, we were not able to find the back of the net,” El Salvador coach Alberto Agustin Castillo said. “The U.S. is easily the best team I have seen in the tournament.”
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando - 6.5: He came up big early on when he had to and was in total command the rest of the way.
Defender DaMarcus Beasley - 6: He used his pace very well and, although he probably had less an impact offensively, he was always in position and had a fine match..
Defender Matt Besler - 5: He has just joined the tournament and was playing for the first time with a group that has settled in already. It takes some adjustment. He seemed somewhat out of step with Goodson all day and could have done more in several dangerous situations.
Defender Clarence Goodson - 6: He produced a solid effort. He was rarely out of position and handled most everything that came his way without a problem.
Defender Michael Parkhurst - 5.5: He was so far forward so often that it seemed he was playing an attacking midfield role. He usually managed to get back defensively but, at times, trailed the play. He was not much of a problem tonight, his shortcomings could be exposed.
Midfielder Joe Corona - 6: He had a nice first-half goal on a strong header. He was very involved in the U.S. offense in one of his better showings for the national team.
Midfielder Mix Diskerud - 6.5: He has had a string of good matches and this was another. He was very involved all day and scored a late goal. He was in position to score others, but was a little off with his finishing.
Midfielder José Torres -6: He was very active and actually played quite well. His passing was sharp and he was active defensively. He used his quickness well in an overall good match.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 6: With the U.S. pushing one or both outside defenders forward at times, they were playing with only two defenders. His job is to fill the open spaces in the defense and he did that job well.
Forward Landon Donovan - 8: He did everything today: long runs, deadly passes and crosses, defending at times and assisting three goals while scoring one. He is the key U.S. player and was so again.
Forward Chris Wondolowski - 4.5: Another game in which he touched the ball very little. He did not get much service but, as with the previous match, he did little to make himself available. He made one very good cross for a goal, but did little else.
Forward Eddie Johnson (60th minute for Wondolowski) - 7.5: Fifteen seconds after entering. He headed home his first touch for a key goal to kill El Salvador’s rally. He made a good effort the rest of the way, showing why he is a first-team performer.
Midfielder Brek Shea (66th minute for Torres) 5.5: He added size and strength on the wing and caused problems for the Salvadoran defenders. Overall though, except for a couple of good moments, he had little effect on the match.
Defender Michael Orozco (75th minute for Besler) - 5.5: By the time he entered, the game was effectively over. He helped break up several late attacks, but was not pressured severely.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Landon Donovan.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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