Jul 17, 2013, 5:18 PM EDT
Costa Rica packed the back, and knew how to make a strategically cynical approach work.
With five defenders and four midfielders organized tightly in front of them, there was precious little operating space for U.S. attackers Tuesday in Hartford. The occasional cross got through, but generally arrived with negligible threat.
As I said last night, U.S. problem solvers were in short supply. Jose Torres seemed to have something crafty in him before the break, but then ran out of energy or lost initiative or something. Stuart Holden didn’t appear to have the legs or the confidence to launch the late runs that tend to sew confusion and leave someone open somewhere.
The U.S. right side (Michael Parkhurst and Alejandro Bedoya) was a big bundle of “Meh.”
But the breakthrough did arrive … and it came off Landon Donovan’s alert mind and his smooth right foot. Credit Brek Shea for a lung-busting run of faith, one that so many players might not have seen or might not have attempted in a match that never meant much to the ongoing tournament. (Although, as we know, these moments certainly could mean something in the ongoing, bigger picture player evaluations.)
But the goal was really about Donovan – and that is why the national team’s all-time leading scorer and assist man will be in Brazil next year. Book it. (All this with the usual caveat of injury, obviously.)
Donovan is a game-changer. Period. Even when he’s not at his best, that is the kind of moment he, and precious few others in the U.S. pool, can manufacture.
Do not underestimate the savvy elements of that one pass:
- The vision to know that Shea was there.
- The confidence to try a 40-yard pass on a first-time hit; so many lesser players would have taken a controlling touch, a less aggressive and safer course of action – and one that would have likely seen the United States forfeit the initiative.
- The instant understanding that to allow Costa Rica, which had sent men forward on a set piece attempt, to retreat once again into that defensive crouch would have been throwing away one of the best chances his team had left of finally breaking through.
- The skill to pull off such a thing. That’s not a terribly difficult ball to hit – but it’s hardly a piece of cake to put it in the right spot. Donovan situated that ball between defenders, out of reach of Costa Rican goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton and into a spot where Shea never had to break stride.
If you watch the video closely, you see U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann point toward Donovan as Joe Corona gets the ball. The manager knows where it needs to go at that point; he understands that Donovan can do something highly productive with it, even if so many others could not.
For Donovan, this Gold Cup was all about proving he can fit in, about proving he has the will and the dedication and that he isn’t just along for the ride.
The ability, the experience and the high-level acumen are still there. Klinsmann knows it; the guy is no dummy.
Moments like that one reiterate it, and reminds us all why getting Donovan’s mind right will mean a lot in Brazil next summer.
Watch the goal one more time:
Apr 1, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT
None of England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Apr 1, 2015, 10:14 PM EDT
Not one, but two middle fingers to your own fans earns you a red card, sir.
Apr 1, 2015, 9:43 PM EDT
AC Milan + Hello Kitty = the strangest soccer story of the week, right?
Apr 1, 2015, 7:47 PM EDT
This is a strange one: footballer admits to thinking about tweet to critic while still game in which he scored.
Apr 1, 2015, 6:22 PM EDT
A serious knee injury at the business end of the season? Terrible news, though Alaba hopes to return for a pair of cup finals.
Apr 1, 2015, 5:58 PM EDT
The first of CONCACAF’s five WCQ rounds is complete, and there’s a world-famous name leading one Caribbean minnow into the next round.
Apr 1, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT
The USMNT kicks off its 2015 Gold Cup campaign in 97 days. What’s the roster going to look like? Who’s the surprising “ins” and “outs”?
Apr 1, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
April Fools’ Day jokes — everybody’s got them, and while most aren’t funny, a few people came through with good ones today.
Apr 1, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
One little magician has been sublime all season. He’s our consensus pick, but who do you choose?
Apr 1, 2015, 2:28 PM EDT
Ribery is a big fan of Hazard. Should the Chelsea wing-wizard replace the Frenchman at Bayern?
Apr 1, 2015, 1:58 PM EDT
PST’s writers select their coach of the year candidate with the end of season awards coming up fast.
Apr 1, 2015, 1:20 PM EDT
Listen to the latest MiB podcast, here.
Apr 1, 2015, 12:58 PM EDT
We select our Young Player of the season. Do you agree with the consensus selection?
Apr 1, 2015, 12:25 PM EDT
Sterling has spoken out about his current contract situation. It’s fascinating stuff.
Apr 1, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT
PST’s writers pick their team of the season, so far… Agree? Disagree?
Apr 1, 2015, 10:35 AM EDT
Which players did themselves the world of good in March for the U.S.? Here’s a gander.
Apr 1, 2015, 9:45 AM EDT
Chairman of Bayern Munich, ECA, believes Blatter is ready to change his ways.
Apr 1, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT
Spurs winger scores stunner to silence doubters. Now, can he keep it up?
Apr 1, 2015, 8:01 AM EDT
Here are the latest rumors involving Premier League clubs.
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