7613_isi_donovanlandon_usmntmj070513113 Michael Janosz/isiphotos.com
Direct from San Diego

U.S. Rolls Guatemala, 6-0, In Rousing Gold Cup Tune-Up

It was slow going at first, but once the Americans established momentum they thrashed Guatemala in San Diego, kicking off its Gold Cup preparation just like they hoped. Jon Arnold took it in live and has this report.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
July 06, 2013
12:36 AM
SAN DIEGO – It was only a friendly against a Central American team that has nothing to prepare for, but it was hard to shake a certain feeling late Friday night.

What feeling? The feeling that the boys are back.

Landon Donovan made his first appearance with the U.S. national team since his largely self-imposed absence and looked like the Landon Donovan we’re used to seeing, scoring his 50th and 51st national team goals and sparking another in a 6-0 thrashing of Guatemala.

“I felt good. I was really excited for it,” Donovan said of his return. “I was actually, surprisingly, pretty relaxed. I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself—just enjoy it. It's nice to play with these guys again. It's nice to see some of the faces. I got a lot of help from a lot of good plays and good players tonight, and it made the difference for me.”

If Donovan’s showing wasn’t enough to take Americans back a few years, Stuart Holden’s assist on Donovan’s second goal might’ve done the trick. Or perhaps it was seeing Oguchi Onyewu put in a solid—though not flawless—performance.

It took nearly a half for the United States to break through, but a switch to a 4-4-2 after the opening half hour turned out to be a successful one.

“The game went, or at least it started, the way we expected,” Jurgen Klinsmann said. “It’s very difficult to play teams like Guatemala or upcoming teams that come now in the Gold Cup that are very disciplined defensively, that lock themselves in with eight, nine, and even 10 guys. And you have to find ways to break them down, and you need to have patience. That’s what we knew, and it took a long time for Herc (Gomez) to score that first goal. Then, obviously things opened up.”

Opening up might be putting it diplomatically. Klinsmann made a planned switch at the second half and brought in Holden and Mix Diskerud to replace Kyle Beckerman and Jose Torres in central midfield. The pair did exactly what it was designed to do and ignited the U.S. attack with goals pouring in during the second half.

Holden keyed a play that ended in a Gomez cross to Donovan who was shoved down in the box. The U.S. all-time leader in goals stepped up to the spot and dinked it down the middle for a second goal. Holden later played a one-two with Chris Wondolowski that resulted in an eager-looking Bolton man wide open in the top corner of the 18-yard box.

“I saw, obviously, a lot of moving bodies, but guys were finding great spots and great spaces as defenders were coming for me to play it past and get the second ball,” he said of the build-up to the fourth goal. “As far as the cross, I just knew that if I put it in a great spot that players like Landon and Herc, natural finishers, guys that want to score, were going to find those positions and just float it right in there. Landon tucked it away because that’s the kind of quality he has. To feel that link-up again with those guys it’s something exciting for me to feel as a midfielder to be able to create, and I think you’ll see a lot more of that in the Gold Cup.”

Though most everything that went right, there were still issues to address, at least in the mind of Klinsmann. The manager listed getting adjusted and building chemistry as a top priority and wanted to see better ball movement. It’s the manager’s job to demand more from the players, and he said the group should expect tough training sessions, including two-a-days with the goal of the hard work culminating with a trophy at the end of the month.

“We want to peak toward the end of the tournament,” he said. “We had a, actually, pretty heavy session yesterday at the stadium, and I told them you might get heavy legs maybe after 30 minutes, 40 minutes, maybe after an hour, so expect to go through that because we’re going to build toward the end of the tournament.”

Donovan too looked toward the future when contextualizing Friday's performance. “I'm not going to get carried away because I scored a couple goals in a friendly against Guatemala, but it's good for confidence, it's good to score goals, it's good for the team to win,” he said. “But it's going to get a lot harder in the coming weeks and we know that.”

At the very least, the team will probably see an opponent register a shot on goal at some point, something the visitors failed to do Friday. That meant a back line that went mostly untested. A tournament opener against debutantes Belize shouldn’t pose much of a threat, and it’s tough to see Cuba creating issues in the second Gold Cup match. That creates plenty of time for the team’s old and new faces to gel. Klinsmann hopes it also creates more than just nostalgia for the glory days of Donovan, Holden, and Gooch, but that it leads to bona fide flashbacks to 2007 when the U.S. last lifted the Gold Cup.

Jon Arnold is an ASN contributing editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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