Friday night most folks were probably still out celebrating America’s independence. (Four-day weekend, right?) If you were paying attention to sports your focus was probably on the seemingly endless Dwight Howard indecision. Meanwhile, out at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, the United States National Team tuned up for the upcoming Gold Cup with a 6-0 thrashing of a hapless Guatemala side.
By most measures the match was an afterthought on the sporting calendar, however it did mark the return of Landon Donovan in a U.S. shirt for the first time since Aug. 15, 2012 following his self-imposed sabbatical from international soccer. Donovan scored twice — once from the penalty spot — upping his U.S.-leading tally to 51 for his career. It was the first international goal since last May. Whether or not Donovan is “back” will be further determined after the Gold Cup concludes later this month. We won’t know until September how he fits in with the full U.S. “A” squad, either.
Since most of the European-based American players, or those who played a role in the recent World Cup qualifiers, were omitted from the Gold Cup roster by coach Jurgen Klinsmann it’s easy to think the tournament doesn’t matter much. It does present an opportunity for fringe international players to state their case why they should still be included as we close in on 2014. Beyond that, you have the entire Donovan situation along with the long-awaited return of Stuart Holden. Holden, out for nearly two years with multiple leg injuries, came on at the start of the second half and looked comfortable playing next to Mix Diskerud in the center of the field and set up Donovan’s second goal with an incisive, curling pass from just outside the area.
There probably aren’t any other takeaways from this one. Guatemala was that poor and is now winless in its last 20 matches against the U.S.
Chris Wondolowski did finally breakthrough with his first international goal and defender Clarence Goodson added a nice volley in the late-goings. Oguchi Onyewu also made a return to this side (notice a theme?) but it’s hard to rate his performance in defense next to Goodson due to Guatemala’s lack of quality.
One other thing to file away for the Gold Cup is that Klinsmann came out with a 4-2-3-1 lineup formation, similar to the one the U.S. found success with in its four game-winning streak across late May and June. The problem was, Klismann tried to play Joe Corona in the spot behind the striker. That role is played by Clint Dempsey normally and it didn’t quite work vs. Guatemala. Eventually the U.S. shifted into a more tradition 4-4-2 with Donovan moving forward and that’s when the team began to turn the screws offensively, going ahead before halftime on a goal by Herculez Gomez.
The Gold Cup begins for the U.S. on Tuesday when they host Belize in Portland, Ore.
Previously: Three Years Ago Today, Landon Donovan Scored His Dramatic Goal Against Algeria
Previously: Jurgen Klinsmann Says Landon Donovan’s Spot in the USMNT isn’t Guaranteed
Previously: Landon Donovan Looks Like He’s Having a Good Time in Cambodia