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U.S. nears World Cup qualification after Altidore strike beats Honduras.

Altidore, E. Johnson lead U.S. past Panama, to first in qualifying group.

Evans' first international goal saves U.S. in road victory over Jamaica.

Altidore, Dempsey spark U.S. to rousing victory over Germany.

Americans look for improvement against Germany after rout at hands of Belgium.

FIFA rejects Costa Rica protest of U.S. victory; Orozco Fiscal replaces injured Jones.

In driving snow, Dempsey sends Americans past Costa Rica for much needed qualifying win.

Schedule for American's five home World Cup final-round qualifiers is completed.

Injuries leave American defense shorthanded for next two Cup qualifiers.

Howard has fractured bones in back, appears out for next two U.S. World Cup qualifiers.

U.S. looks bad, losing lead and qualifying opener to Honduras.

U.S., Canada post listless performances for scoreless draw in friendly.

Gomez free kick is enough to send improved U.S. past Jamaica for crucial World Cup qualifying win.

With key players out, U.S. is dominated, loses qualifier to Jamaica on set peices.

U.S. visits Azteca in Mexico and comes away with historic win.

U.S. shortcomings are exposed in 1-1 qualifying draw with Guatemala.

U.S. is not impressive, but dispatches Antigua & Barbuda 3-1 to open qualifying.

U.S. sputters in 0-0 draw with Canada in prelude to qualifying.

Donovan's three goals spark U.S. past Scotland 5-1 in friendly.

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Analysis

Wondolowski hat trick propels U.S. to Gold Cup romp past Belize.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Wednesday, July 10, 2013) -- Striker Chris Wondolowski scored three first-half goals for the United States men who opened Group C play of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 6-1 victory over Belize at JELD-WEN Field last night in front of a less-than-capacity 18,724 in Portland, Ore.

This exercise was more a training scrimmage that a real match against an opponent, which had only two professional players in its lineup. One was goalkeeper Shane Orio who plies his trade for C.D. Marathón in Honduras. He was terrific, although for some odd reason he was credited with only a single save. Yet, he often corralled high balls sent into his penalty area and controlled his box quite well.

Belize at times looked as if it was playing something akin to an 8-3 they had so many players in the defensive third. On countless occasions, shots taken by U.S. players hit an opposing body in the box and bounced harmlessly away.

The U.S. defense was seldom pressured, but conceded a goal and two near misses. After a foul by U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan, Elroy Smith sent a long free kick into the box to completely unmarked fellow defender Ian Gaynair, who easily headed the ball past late-reacting goalkeeper Nick Rimando to narrow Belize’s deficit to 2-1 in the 40th minute.

It took only one more minute for Wondolowski to complete his hat trick and put the U.S. back in control.

“We’re really starting to click,” Wondolowski said. “There’s tremendous talent all over the offensive area. We’re just making smart runs and finishing our chances.”

On his first goal, Wondolowski calmly put away a rebound from point-blank range in the 12th minute. The two other strikers came on headers in which he laid out to redirect balls lofted into the area.

Wondolowski became the third U.S. player to tally a hat trick in a Gold Cup match, joining Brian McBride and Donovan. It also marked the 15th time a American notched three or more goals in a game.

“A goal scorer always comes on in the moments where he realizes the extra work will pay off and it pays off for Wondo that he is so dedicated and has such a great attitude,” U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann said. “He scored his first one the other day (against Guatemala) in San Diego and followed up with his next ones. That’s what a goal scorer is about, always hungry and doesn’t change his way. It makes us coaches happy, obviously, and he builds his own case.”

Wondolowski notched his three goals despite playing in a jersey that had his name misspelled: "Wondowlowski." He said he would continue to wear that jersey throughout the Gold Cup so as to not adversely affect his good fortune.

Although the striker from Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes grabbed the headlines, the best American player was Donovan. He directed much of the attack on the night and contributed two assists along with a penalty-kick goal. He had a hand in almost every U.S. score.

What’s most interesting is how he paired with Stuart Holden in the second half. It would not be surprising to see both starting for the U.S. in next year’s World Cup in Brazil.

“For me now. it’s not a matter of being back, it’s a matter of getting better than that,” said Holden, who is coming off a long injury absence. “I want to be better than I was before. I want to reach new heights that I didn’t before my injury. In terms of being back, that word is overplayed. I’m there. It’s just a matter of fine tuning and taking it to the next level.”

Holden scored last night on Donovan’s 50th career assist.

In Friday’s 6-0 rout of Guatemala in a friendly, Donovan’s two goals allowed him to become the first U.S. player to exceed 50. With tonight’s goal, he now has 52. Wondolowski had his first international goal in that outing.

With two assists last night, Donovan now has 51.

The next Group C match will be Saturday against Cuba, a 3-0 loser to Costa Rica last night. The game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, kicks off at 3:30 p.m. (ET) and will be broadcast on Fox and Spanish-language Univision.


U.S. Player Ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Nick Rimando - 5.5: Had very little to do. He could have done better on Belize’s goa,l but atoned in stoppage time when he laid out to palm away the only hard shot he faced all night.

Defender DaMarcus Beasley - 6: He was so far forward, he really was playing as a midfielder. He was strong on the attack, often going deep into Belize’s penalty area. On defense, he was not called on to do much, but, on one occasion, he was beaten one-on-one though the result did no damage.

Defender Michael Orozco Fiscal - 6: Defensively, he was under almost no pressure. He had a few problems in picking up men on free kicks but his biggest contribution was on the U.S.’s fifth goal, when he converted Donovan’s perfect pass.

Defender Clarence Goodson - 6: With so little to do defensively, he has to be judged on his offense which, for a central defender, was very robust. For most of the night, he and Orozco Fiscal set up almost at the midfield line and controlled balls hit out of danger by Belize. His passing was good.

Defender Michael Parkhurst - 5: He looked to be at fault in failing to pick up a man on Belize’s only goal. At times, he had some trouble in completing passes when he went forward, which was often, but he did do well on perfectly lifting a ball into the penalty area for Wondolowski’s third goal.

Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 6: He handled a more defensive role well, although might be faulted on Belize’s goal. He also moved forward well with his passes often finding the mark. He did well getting the ball in front of Wondolowski to head in.

Midfielder Joe Corona - 5.5: Playing on the right side, he was very involved in the U.S. attack. His header resulted in a rebound and Wondolowski’s first goal. As active as he was, he didn’t seem to accomplish much.

Midfielder Mikkel Diskerud - 5: On the plus side, he was very active with a high work rate, but to no great effect. Against as weak opponent, he should have been able to do more. In appearing in his first “official” match for the U.S., the Norwegian-born Diskerud is now officially tied to the Americans for his international career. He has been courted by Norway.

Midfielder José Torres - 5: What he did, he generally did well enough, but he did not do things often enough. He should have had a first-half goal, but finished poorly. He did little wrong, but not enough right.

Forward Landon Donovan - 7.5: Quite simply, he is the best technical player the U.S. has, period. Although he was playing on the wing, sometimes left and sometimes right, much of the American attack moved through him. Even though his goal came on a gift penalty kick, he was the most valuable player last night as he works his way out of Klinsmann’s doghouse..

Forward Chris Wondolowski - 7: A terrific first half scoring three times, twice with difficult headers. He actually could have had at least two more goals in just the first 45 minutes. Then, he took the final 45 minutes off, rarely touching the ball and never dangerous.

Reserves

Midfielder Stuart Holden (46th minute for Beckerman) - 6.5: A fine second-half appearance for a player slowly rounding into match condition after his year-plus layoff for injury. He paired very well with Donovan and ran freely. This was an important milestone in his recovery.

Midfielder Brek Shea (61st minute for Torres) - 5.5: He saw little of the ball on the left flank with Donovan and Holden controlling play on the right side. He gave things a good effort, but was not much in the match.

Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (66th minute for Corona) - 5: He came close to scoring moments after entering, but then seemed to disappear for the rest of the half. He pushed forward with verve, but without much of a result.

SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Landon Donovan.


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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