Good performances fell like the late rain all over the field for the United States, which responded beautifully Sunday when under some actual pressure for the first time in the ongoing Gold Cup.
No one handled the call for response better than Landon Donovan, who just keeps reminding us why he’s the national team’s all-time leading scorer and all-time top assist man. While his finishing wasn’t tip-top in Sunday’s tournament quarterfinal, Donovan certainly put a mark on the game, in on all five U.S. goals.
Officially the line will say “one goal and three assists” in the commanding 5-1 win over El Salvador. It’s hard to say Jurgen Klinsmann’s team would not have won Sunday in Baltimore without any one man – but you can get close with Donovan, a true difference maker in breaking down the rugged Salvadoran defense.
In the opposition’s defensive third, Donovan was easily the busiest man on the U.S. attack, making great choices and moving into useful spots, essentially exploiting a free role to present consistent danger. His movement off the ball is exactly what you’d expect from someone aiming for his fourth World Cup – and so, so few men in the history of the game can say the same.
Sunday’s zippy match remained in some doubt before Donovan rounded Salvadoran ‘keeper Dagoberto Portillo to make it 4-1 in the 78th minute. (Extra points, by the way, for the “Andy Dufresne-Shawshank” celebration in the rain at M&T Bank Stadium.)
But it was the skillful set-ups that distinguished his day. U.S. teammates like Jose Torres and Joe Corona were also handy in the Salvadoran end, but none dominated like Donovan. And none came anything close to establishing the end result like the LA Galaxy attacker.
His cross on a tightly designed corner kick sequence to Clarence Goodson was sharp and precise. His work was outstanding in breaking down the Salvadoran defense to help arrange Corona’s nifty work and solid finish for goal No. 2. Donovan’s cross to Eddie Johnson for the third U.S. goal was routine stuff for someone with his skill, but impactful just the same.
And his ability to find the right spot to take Kyle Beckerman’s feed, and then to skillfully supply a perfect cross for Mix Diskerud to punctuate the scoring was technical and tactical perfection.
Can anybody still doubt that Donovan, with six assists in the tournament, has earned his spot on the U.S. roster for Brazil? Clearly, he’s done plenty.