After 45 minutes, Michael Bradley looked set for man of the match. His 11th minute goal was not only the difference in the match (at halftime), it was one of the better strikes in recent men’s national team history. Add in his contributions on Landon Donovan’s opener (jumping into the play after Jose Torres and Terrance Boyd created an early turnover) and his efforts pressing through the midfield, and Saturday’s friendly against Scotland was shaping up as a statement match for Bradley. That statement: Bradley could play an even bigger part in the Klinsmann era than he did under his father.
But come full time, another statement had drowned out Michael’s, a statement we should have known was coming. After a week of pondering whether his time in the spotlight was waning, Landon Donovan rushed back center stage in a big way. With three goals and an assist, Donovan posted the third national team hat trick of his career.
His first goal may have been his toughest. At least, it required the most tenacity. On a ball in from the left, Donovan (back to goal) played a nice touch into the space right of goal, turning toward the sideline with his defender on his back. His right-footed blast from 12 yards out was blocked after Allen McGregor came aggressively off his line, but when the rebound offered Donovan a second chance, the national team’s all-time leading scorer proved unforgiving. Roofing his shot just inside the right post, Donovan put the U.S. up 1-0 in the third minute.
Two near identical second half finishes pushed Donovan’s career USMNT goal total to 49. In the 59th minute, Jermaine Jones got behind Soctland’s left back, cut a ball back toward the middle of the box for Donovan, whose right-footer found the side netting inside the far post. Five minutes later, it was more of the same, with Donovan first-timing a ball from Bradley to just inside the far post, an unstoppable finish.
And five minutes later (69′), Donovan was in on another goal, with Jones heading a cross from Donovan home for the U.S’s final goal.
Three goals and an assist should be enough to quell all speculation about Donovan’s future in Jurgen Klinsmann’s set up. While nobody saw Donovan fading from the scene any time soon, questions were being asked. Where does Landon fit, given his lack of time with the national team under Klinsmann? What does the emergence of Clint Dempsey mean for Donovan’s place in the pecking order?
Donovan’s performance undermined the idea of pecking orders. As did Michael Bradley’s and Jose Torres’s. Pecking orders are for teams that can’t accomodate more than one star. As the U.S. showed on Saturday, there’s room for more than one player to dominate. Against Scotland, Donovan just happened to be the most dominant.