It was a rare and beautiful night for U.S. Soccer on Saturday.
The U.S. team that has struggled to score goals in its time under Jurgen Klinsmann would pop in five against Scotland and collect an encouraging victory over a European side in the Americans' World Cup Qualifier warm ups.
Coming in, the U.S. full team hadn’t seen game action together in months, but with several of the starters fresh off their European seasons, they still proved to be lethal.
It didn’t take more than a few minutes of U.S. pressure to lead to Landon Donovan’s first goal for the national team in 2012. A ball won on the wing was played into Jermaine Jones who played it on to Donovan who missed on his first try only to see the rebound bounce into his path. Taking no chances, Donovan would bury the shot in the top of the net to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead. It was the start the team needed, but more importantly, the start that Donovan needed to start easing his way back into the side.
A few minutes later, Michael Bradley would make it 2-0 with a world class strike. After Donovan crossed into Terrence Boyd, the young striker laid a pass into the path of Bradley who struck it brilliantly, slicing it into the top right corner. Bradley played a ton of games at Chievo in Italy this season, something that has clearly helped him to continue developing as an attacking player.
The U.S. would score one against themselves before 15 minutes after national team debutant Geoff Cameron turned in a Kenny Miller shot on accident, but the momentum never really left the Americans. They would go into halftime up 2-1, dominating the majority of possession as Donovan, Bradley and Maurice Edu in the midfield proved the workhorses.
The second half would belong to one man, the player who is considering his soccer playing future heavily at the moment. Donovan needed a night like this, just to show Klinsmann how bad he needs the L.A. Galaxy star to help operate the 4-3-3 scheme that the coach desires to see the team play so badly.
His second strike of the night came at the hour mark after a beautiful little one two on the right sideline with Jermaine Jones saw the Schalke man break down the line and cross back toward Donovan. With one swift kick, Donovan fired it at the far post easily beating Alan McGregor to make it 3-1.
The third would come after Michael Bradley put together some sharp passing with fresh substitute Herculez Gomez and slid the ball through to Donovan who had a clear run on goal. He would slam it home to the far post once again completing his hat trick and essentially killing off the Scots.
Donovan wasn’t done, however. In the 70th minute, he would add an assist to his tally on the night hitting Jermaine Jones on the head after Gomez had slid it out wide to Donovan. It was a easy header for Jones and the perfect cap to a perfect night for the U.S. legend and all time best goal scorer.
Klinsmann will draw confidence from the performance and should. Whipping a European side 5-1 is something the U.S. has rarely been able to do in their history after all. But, the coach and other players will have to face up to the fact that the game would have been completely different if Donovan wasn’t in the game. He can finish, he can set other players up and pushes the intensity of how this team plays.
No one man can win a soccer game, this is true, but few could come closer to achieving that than Donovan did on Saturday night. Klinsmann still hasn’t had an opportunity to put Dempsey and Donovan on the same field together as Dempsey took the night off. Jose Torres and Terrence Boyd partnered Donovan up top to start, but one has to believe that at least Torres' position on the left wing was only temporary as he’ll fall from the lineup when Dempsey is available.
Whether or not we should place a lot of stock in Scotland and be giving ourselves a big pat on the back can be debated, but the quality of Donovan can’t. A 5-1 start to the summer is a hell of a bang to kick things off with and a possible affirmation that hiring Klinsmann was the right thing to do. If the team can repeat these types of performances with their two most dynamic players on the field at the same time, it’s going to be a bright summer ahead.
5 thoughts from the game:
- Michael Bradley needs to be given credit for the incredible game that he had. He was involved in three of the five goals and brought a dominant presence to the midfield throughout much of the contest. He continues to develop and impress with each passing season.
- Terrence Boyd isn’t ready to take on a starting role most likely, but he’s very dangerous with the ball at his feet and shows real potential in his ability to hold the ball up or turn and smack a shot. If he can turn into a reliable sub this summer, he stands a good chance of becoming more than that in 2014.
- Fabian Johnson seems right at home at left back and adds speed and dynamism to a position the U.S. hasn’t really had an answer for in several years. With Timothy Chandler opting to play for Germany, the door is open to Johnson to seal his place, let’s just hope he can continue performing at this level consistently.
- Maurice Edu belongs in that holding midfield role. In the past, he’s had to play attacker as well and it hasn’t worked out that well for him, but when he’s asked to play that anchor role and patrol the area in front of the back line, Edu is impressive and effective with his passing and defensive prowess.
- The 4-3-3 setup is something the U.S. has needed to experiment with for sometime rather than putting one of either Donovan or Dempsey in the attack and the other on a wing. In this setup, either side the Americans go to is really a nightmare for the opposition and opens up the middle of the field for midfielders like Jones and Bradley or whatever young striker Klinsmann plays to make runs and take shots at the incoming crosses.