Donovan is catalyst again, powering U.S. past Honduras to Gold Cup final against Panama.
By Robert Wagman
(Wednesday, July 24, 2013) -- Midfielder Landon Donovan registered two goals and an assist, helping the United States men drop Honduras 3-1 in a CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal tonight before 81,410 at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
In winning its record 10th straight match, three more than the previous record, set in 2007, the U.S. advanced to Sunday’s final against Panama, a 2-1 semifinal winner over Mexico. That 4 p.m. (ET) match at Chicago’s Soldier Field will be televised by Fox and Spanish-language Univision. It will truly be a home match for the Americans with the U.S. Soccer Federation headquarters in close proximity.
The U.S. has won the Gold Cup four times, last in 2007, and has been a finalist in nine of 12 participations. The winner of this tournament will face the 2015 Gold Cup winner in a two-match series to decide the entrant into the prestigious 2017 Confederations Cup.
Whether U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann will be present for the final remains to be seen. He was sent off by Costa Rican referee Walter Quesada in the 87th minute after defender DaMarcus Beasley was fouled hard.
Striker Eddie Johnson, added to the team for the tournament’s knockout round, converted a perfect pass from Donovan for a clinical finish for his 17th career goal and a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute.
Donovan put the Americans ahead for good 2-0 in the 27th minute. His 18 goals in 33 Gold Cup outings increased his U.S. record 56 career strikes.
Honduras seemed worn out by its upset victory over Costa Rica Sunday in Baltimore. As a result, the U.S. had a mostly easy outing.
Only two of Honduras’ 11 shots were on goal, though defender Nery Medina’s header off reserve forward Marvin Chavez’s free kick brought Los Catrachos back to within 2-1 in the 52nd minute.
The tally highlighted the Americans’ difficulties marking opponents on set pieces. Medina had plenty of room as he readied for his header. The U.S. has worked hard in practice on its organization on dead-ball defense, but there obviously is more work to be done.
Honduras’ comeback was short-lived. Within a minute, U.S. midfielder Alejandro Bedoya had his second assist, crossing to Donovan for a point-blank finish and a 3-1 advantage. The U.S. coasted from there.
The U.S. last loss was at the hands of host Honduras, 2-1 in the opening match of the final round of World Cup qualifying in San Pedro Sula. The Americans responded by winning the return qualifier 1-0 June 18 in Santdy, Utah.
The Honduras side that defeated the U.S. February 6 and gave the Americans a tough match in Utah should not be confused with the Gold Cup 11. The completely different Honduras “B” team is starkly different from the first team. Then again, the U.S. is also using a “B” team for this biannual event.
Playing a Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday schedule in three different cities, Klinsmann tried to get some fresh legs into the midfield and rest some players for Sunday by inserting Stuart Holden and Alejandro Bedoya and resting Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud.
Panama has been playing its best 11 players and they will prove a test for the U.S. in Chicago. With Donovan proving to be the Gold Cup’s best player and others, such as Johnson, standing out, the Americans should be considered favorites, but they must address their vulnerability on defense.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando - 6: He can’t really be faulted for the Honduras goal. Otherwise, he did everything asked of him and controlled his area well, although he had little to do.
Defender DaMarcus Beasley - 5.5: It might be the grinding tournament schedule might have caught up with Beasley. He had a decent night defensively, but his usual offensive contributions were lacking. He just looked tired..
Defender Matt Besler - 6.5: He settled into the U.S. back-line better than against El Salvador on Sunday. Although none of the U.S. defenders were put under any pressure often, he did particularly well, especially in his distribution of the ball.
Defender Clarence Goodson - 4.5: The usually dependable center-back did not have a good night. He lost his mark on Honduras’ goal and, at times, seemed a bit lost in the center of defense. He could be another case of tired legs.
Defender Michael Parkhurst - 5.5: He was not called on to do very much. but he did what he could. He was not an offensive threat often, but he was solid defensively.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 6.5: He was called on to do the hard work in the midfield. His strong play in the middle prevented the Honduras engine from doing much.
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya - 7: After a strong year for Helsingborg in Sweden, has needed to show he can do as well for his national team as he did for his club team and he started to show he could. He was simply everywhere in the midfield and his assists on both Donovan goals shows he might prove a reliable backup for Michael Bradley on the first team.
Midfielder Stuart Holden - 5: The oft-injured midfielder had a poor outing. He is probably still not completely game fit after his long injury absence and, after taking a very hard elbow to the face in the first half, was largely absent for the rest of the game.
Midfielder Jose Torres -5.5: Another player who had an off-night. He too seemed tired and did not leave much of an impression.
Forward Landon Donovan - 8: If there was any doubt he is the best American player and the tournament’s most valuable player, he erased that tonight. American fans hope he has another match like this one in him for Sunday’s final. If he does, the U.S. should raise the championship trophy.
Forward Eddie Johnson - 7.5: He picked up where he left off as a reserve against El Salvador with a quick goal to put the U.S. ahead to stay. He made plays all over the field. This group is a better team with him on top.
Midfielder Brek Shea (67th minute for Torres) - 5:.He came on and had very little impact on the match. He has not had a good tournament and did little to change that trend.
Midfielder Mix Diskerud (67th minute for Beckerman) - 5: He was not as good as the player he replaced. He just never seemed to get into the match and had probably his poorest performance of the tournament.
Forward Chris Wondolowski (72nd minute for Donovan) - 5: By the time he arrived, the U.S. was simply killing off the match, so there was very little for him to do.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Landon Donovan.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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